But especially in the era of Trump — who, of course, has already begun to question Biden’s mental fitness — there might also be something to be said for saying the quiet part out loud. In a poll conducted shortly after the first debate, a lot of Demoratic voters explicitly used Swalwell’s “pass the torch” language when asked an open-ended question about why they didn’t want to vote for Biden. And they were much more likely to explicitly mention Biden’s age than to use vaguer responses, such as that he was “out of touch.”
There’s also risk to anti-Biden Democrats in drawing voters’ attention to gaffes or other incidents that voters view as relatively minor. Biden remains an extremely well-liked figure among Democratic voters; 75 percent of them have a favorable view of him, according to Morning Consult’s latest polling. So three-quarters of the electorate is going to start with a predilection against sympathizing with critiques of Biden. If those critiques aren’t really bringing the goods and instead seem like petty grievances, those Democrats may conclude that the case against Biden is a lot of hot air.
Meanwhile, if the false alarms continue — Democrats on Twitter or on podcasts predict Biden’s demise and the polls are unmoved — the media may come to view Biden as a Trump-like “teflon” candidate who isn’t greatly affected by gaffes and scandals. That could reduce their appetite for covering them in the future — even if more serious ones occur than what’s taken place to date.