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DUBLIN — Laurita Blewitt knows how deep Joe Biden’s Irish roots run. When the White House contacted her to help put together a family lunch ahead of the then-vice president’s 2016 visit to Ireland, she struggled to limit the crowd.
“He’s loads of cousins living here, in and around Ballina, and that’s just one side of his Irish family,” said Blewitt, 37, a fourth cousin who lives near the County Mayo tourist town along the River Moy.
“I gave the White House the names of the Blewitts closest to me but, my God, another 50-odd more could have been invited,” she recalled.
Today, a pop-art mural of a beaming Biden greets visitors to Ballina, one sign of growing excitement here that the United States might soon get its most Irish-American president since John F. Kennedy.
Declaring ties to Ireland has often been a vote-winner in an America where, according to the last census, one in 10 people — 33 million — claims Irish descent. Ever since Kennedy’s landmark visit here in 1963, a succession of U.S. presidents have crossed the Atlantic to highlight the Irish branch of their family tree.
While President Donald Trump’s only apparent tie to Ireland is his ownership of an oceanside golf resort in County Clare, Biden for decades has tied his identity to Ireland.
Ronald Reagan stopped by in 1984 to sup a pint of Smithwick’s ale in a pub in his ancestors’ native Ballyporeen, County Tipperary. That pub was dismantled 20 years later,