Six in ten Americans: Biden is showing that he's too old to be president

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Tell us again how Joe Biden expects to run for a second term, Democrats. I triple dog dare you. In the latest Harvard-Harris/CAPS poll, a majority of American voters believe Biden isn’t mentally fit now, and even more think Biden has demonstrated that he’s already too old for the job. Given that, Biden’s topline job approval of 41% almost seems Herculean.


Here’s the money slide from the latest Harvard-Harris report, parts of which got leaked to The Hill yesterday, but not this:

On the mental fitness question, Biden gets majority support from all of the usual Democrat-allied demos, but it’s not convincing. Among Democrats in general, Biden gets an 81/19 on mental fitness, for instance, rather than a 99% you’d expect. Two thirds of black voters think he’s mentally fit, which would be a long way below the 90%+ Biden would need for a 2024 run. Urban voters go 61/39, although suburban voters cut more closely in the other direction (43/52). Hispanics give Biden a wan 52/48 on the mental fitness question, with most other demos scoring majorities for unfit. Particularly troublesome for Democrats: women, who rank him 47/53 on mental fitness.

It gets even worse on the age question. Fully 62% think Biden is “showing” that he’s too old for the job, meaning not just crossing some sort of vague forced-retirement boundary in people’s minds. What about those friendly demos above? Well …

  • Democrats: 29% too old, 71% showing fitness for presidency
  • Black voters: 50/50
  • Hispanics: 57/43
  • Urban voters: 53/47
  • Suburban voters: 64/36
  • Women: 62/38

Imagine having to run on Biden’s leadership in suburban House districts, or appealing to women on the basis of Biden’s competence in 2022. With these numbers, Democrats could lose urban districts without either turning on Biden or getting a lot of organizational help, especially since these voters might blame current Democrat incumbents for foisting an unfit old man onto them in the first place. And then think how bad this will be in 2024. Democrats have begun leaking like sieves over this very concern lately, and now we see why. It’s not just Republicans and conservative pundits that are pointing out that the emperor has no cognitive clothes.

The Corner’s Charles C.W. Cooke calls this unrecoverable:

This is the sort of problem from which a president cannot recover. The economy can change. Foreign policy can shift. Perceptions of the opposing party can deteriorate. But once people think you’re old and mentally unfit, you’re toast.

It’s recoverable if a president can do something dramatic to counter that impression. In Ronald Reagan’s second term, his opponents tried to paint him as too old and tired (at 73) to be trusted with another term. Reagan knew that and turned the tables on Walter Mondale, in part to counter the impression he left in their first debate that he’d lost a step:


Walter Mondale later said he knew he’d lost the election in that moment. Does anyone think Biden has anything like this kind of a rebound in him? Does anyone think Biden ever had the wit of Reagan, or even enough of it to know that he needed to make this kind of an emphatic rebuttal? No, which is why Cooke is correct that this will be unrecoverable for Biden. Those of us who have watched most of Biden’s career know it’s not just unrecoverable, but that this reckoning was inevitable.

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David Strom 12:40 PM | July 23, 2024
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