President Joe Biden’s 81st birthday Monday is shining a spotlight on his advanced age at a time when poll after poll is showing it to be an obstacle for his reelection hopes.
What You Need To Know
- President Joe Biden’s 81st birthday Monday is shining a spotlight on his advanced age at a time when poll after poll is showing it to be an obstacle for his reelection hopes
- hen asked about concerns regarding his age, Biden has repeatedly countered with two words: “Watch me"
- He’s also at times sought to deflect worries with humor, which was evident during Monday’s White House pre-Thanksgiving tradition of pardoning turkeys, when he joked, “I just want you to know it’s difficult turning 60"
- Biden and his campaign have also tried to portray his age and experience as assets
Biden is the oldest president ever to serve. If he wins next year’s race, he would be 86 when he concludes his second term in the White House.
In a CNN poll in September, 73% of Americans said they are seriously concerned that Biden’s age could negatively affect his physical and mental competence. Seventy-six said they are worried his age could hurt his ability to serve another four years. And 68% said they are concerned he cannot understand the concerns of young Americans.
A survey by The New York Times and Siena College published earlier this month found that 70% of likely voters across six key battleground states believe Biden is “too old to be an effective president.”
Several other polls have yielded similar results.
Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley is calling for mental competency tests for federal elected officials over 75 years of age. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is also seeking the GOP nomination, has said, “The presidency is not a job for someone that's 80 years old.” And Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota has challenged Biden for his party’s nomination, citing Biden’s poor poll numbers and saying he believes it’s time for a new generation of leaders.
Voters largely do not have similar concerns about former President Donald Trump’s age, polls show. If Trump, 77, returns to the White House, he would break Biden’s record as the oldest president before his term ends. Trump has a commanding lead in the polls for the Republican nomination.
The New York Times-Siena poll, for example, found that just 39% of voters in the same swing states view Trump as too old.
When asked about concerns regarding his age, Biden has repeatedly countered with two words: “Watch me.”
He’s also at times sought to deflect worries with humor, which was evident during Monday’s White House pre-Thanksgiving tradition of pardoning turkeys.
“I just want you to know it’s difficult turning 60,” he joked.
In the past, he’s poked fun at himself with remarks such as, “I've never been more optimistic about our country's future in the 800 years I've served” and, “I believe in the First Amendment and not just because my good friend Jimmy Madison wrote it.”
But Biden and his campaign have also tried to portray his age and experience as assets.
“The only thing that comes with age is a little bit of wisdom,” he said during a Labor Day speech in Philadelphia. “I’ve been doing this longer than anybody, and guess what? I’m going to continue to do it with your help.”
To be sure, Biden has fallen, stumbled and misspoke on several occasions. For example, he fell on stage at an Air Force Academy graduation in June and stumbled on the stairs of Air Force One in September. His verbal gaffes have included referring to Vice President Kamala Harris as “President Harris” and claiming the bipartisan infrastructure law he signed in 2021 funded 700,000 major construction projects lat year, instead of 7,000.
Such incidents generally receive coverage in conservative media.
The Biden campaign has tried to dismiss polling about a year out from the election as unreliable and also point out what it views as a double standard, citing several instances of when Trump has, too, misspoke.
For instance, Trump last month referred to Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban as the leader of Turkey and incorrectly stated that Hungary shares a border with Russia. The former president also accused Biden of leading the U.S. into “World War II” and claimed he faced Barack Obama in the 2020 presidential election.
But the efforts by Biden and his team have done little to impact his poll numbers.
Politico reported Sunday there are deep concerns among Biden donors, fundraisers, Democratic strategists and party officials about the campaign’s approach to the age issue. And The Washington Post reported that Biden and his campaign are facing calls from within the party to become more active and aggressive, rather than dismissive about it.
Asked about the president’s age in September, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said she understands the questions, “but what we're going to continue to talk about is the record that this president has had. It's been a historic record.”
Biden will celebrate his birthday Monday with a low-key family gathering, CNN reported.