Concerns over President Joe Biden’s age are starting to catch up with him.
1) The New York Times put a story about the growing concerns over Biden’s age, 79, on its front page Sunday – prime real estate. That piece included these brutal lines:
“His energy level, while impressive for a man of his age, is not what it was, and some aides quietly watch out for him. He often shuffles when he walks, and aides worry he will trip on a wire. He stumbles over words during public events, and they hold their breath to see if he makes it to the end without a gaffe.”
2) A New York Times/Siena College poll released Monday showed that 64% of voters planning to participate in the 2024 Democratic presidential primary said they want the party to nominate a candidate other than Biden. Among the youngest voters (ages 18-29) in that group, a critical part of the party’s coalition, just 5% – not a typo – want the party to renominate Biden.
3) Asked for a reason for why they would prefer someone other than Biden, 33% of Democratic primary voters cited his age, while 32% said his job performance. Among Biden’s rough age cohort – those 65 and over – 60% said age was the main reason they wanted Democrats to nominate someone other than the President.
Those are striking numbers that speak to the fact that this isn’t just a summer story being driven by the media. It’s a legitimate concern for voters – even those who are favorably inclined to the party to which Biden belongs.
Let’s consider some facts.
* Joe Biden is 79 years old. He was the oldest person ever elected president – by five years – when he won the White House in 2020 at age 77. (He turned 78 less than a month after the election.)
* If/when he runs for reelection in 2024, he will be 81 years old on Election Day – and will turn 82 shortly after. (Biden’s birthday is November 20, 1942.)
* White House physician Kevin O’Connor said following an examination of Biden in November 2021 that the President “remains a healthy, vigorous, 78-year-old male who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency, to include those as Chief Executive, Head of State and Commander-in-Chief. O’Connor also noted that “the President’s ambulatory gait is perceptibly stiffer and less fluid than it was a year or so ago.”
Biden himself, during the course of the 2020 campaign, acknowledged that voters should consider his age as they made up their minds about their vote.
“I think it’s totally appropriate for people to look at my age,” he said during a campaign stop in New Hampshire in 2019. “Just like when I was 29 [when he was elected to the Senate], was I old enough? And now, am I fit enough? I’ll completely disclose everything about my health. I’m in good shape.”
Earlier in the campaign, Biden was even more blunt about his age as an issue. “I say if they’re concerned, don’t vote for me,” he said.
At least one of his primary opponents – Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan – made an overt appeal on Biden’s age. “I just think Biden is declining,” Ryan said in September 2019, according to Bloomberg News. “I don’t think he has the energy. You see it almost daily. And I love the guy.” Later, in an interview with CNN, Ryan said: “It’s not like I said something that a lot of people aren’t thinking.”
The question of how big of an issue Biden’s age will wind up being for voters if he runs in 2024 remains to be seen – and could be dependent on whether Republicans nominate someone who can drive that contrast with Biden or not.
At present, the leading Republican presidential contenders is Donald Trump, who, at 76, is no spring chicken. In a post on his Truth Social app on Sunday, Trump characteristically tried to have it both ways on the age question.
“President Biden is one of the oldest 79s in History but, by and of itself, he is not an old man,” Trump wrote. “There are many people in their 80s, and even 90s that are as good and sharp as ever. Biden is not one of them, but it has little to do with his age. In actuality, life begins at 80!”