Politico: Despite his age, Biden refuses to leave the stage

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

President Biden turned 80 on Sunday. That’s the oldest any president has ever been. Reuters ran a story noting that a lot of Americans don’t think this is such a good thing, especially not as they look forward to 2024.

Some Americans have concerns about the advanced age of the two most likely 2024 candidates.

While 71% of Democrats think Biden is “mentally sharp and able to deal with challenges,” 46% say he may not be up to the challenge of running in 2024, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken Nov. 8 and 9. About a quarter of Republicans, 26%, think Trump may not be up to 2024 because of his age.

Political affiliation aside, 68% of people surveyed think Biden may not be up for the challenge two years from now, and 49% say the same about Trump. Some 86% of Americans said they believe the cutoff for serving as president should be age 75 or younger, the poll found.

Yesterday Philip Bump at the Washington Post pointed out that the age of Americans has changed pretty dramatically over the past 100 years or so. There are just a lot more older people than there used to be thanks to extended lifespans.

In 1900, for example, only about 4 percent of the population was 65 or over. In 2020, more than 17 percent was. Thanks to extended life expectancies and to the aging baby boom, America is older now than it has ever been.

And that led Bump to consider an idea? If you corrected for increased lifespan would Biden’s age still be an issue? The answer was yes, he’s still “exceptional.”

I pulled data on the country’s population over the past 120 years and compared it to the age of the president during that period. And I can say: yes, Biden’s age is still exceptional…

The president in 1900 was William McKinley, aged a relatively young 57. But in 1900, 88 percent of the country’s population was younger than that, so he was an old president relative to the nation’s population that year. In 2003, when George W. Bush was 57, he was older than only about 71 percent of the population…

But then there’s Biden. Yes, America is older than it used to be, but Biden’s age is still fairly exceptional. He’s older than almost 96 percent of the population — the second-biggest gulf between a president’s age and the population’s. The victor here is Ronald Reagan who, in his last year in office, turned 77, making him older than a fraction more of the population than Biden is now.

Of course Reagan only tops the list if you measure the last year of his 2nd term against the middle of Biden’s first. Biden will take the lead next year or the one after. Despite all of that, Politico reports today that Biden is planning to run again, convinced that Democrats don’t have anyone else who can plausibly take on Trump.

Days after his 80th birthday, President Joe Biden gathered loved ones on Nantucket to earnestly begin family discussions about his 2024 plans.

The talks come a week after the 82-year-old House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she would be handing over her leadership role, declaring: “The hour has come for a new generation to lead.” Those words echoed Biden’s own from the presidential campaign trail where he once declared himself a “transition candidate” who would restore stability to the White House before passing the torch to younger leaders.

But that was then. Now, it increasingly appears that Biden isn’t ready to cede the stage just yet.

While there has been simmering tension within the Democratic Party about making a generational change, Biden’s fate appears to be intrinsically linked to Donald Trump, whom he defeated in 2020 and has deemed a threat to American democracy.

The former president has already declared his own 2024 campaign and Biden has privately made clear that he believes he might be the only Democrat who could vanquish Trump again. And while Pelosi had an established line of succession in the House, those close to Biden say the field to follow him is far more unsettled…

If Biden opted against a run, few in Washington believe the field would clear for Vice President Kamala Harris, and that could create a bruising primary battle.

Imagine being VP Harris and reading this. It couldn’t be more clear that Biden and his team have no faith in her. At the same time, he’s unable to jump ship because the optics of side-stepping the first black Vice President is not something he could get away with. So at the end of the day the Democrats best option for 2024 is an 80-year-old man who struggles to remember who is alive and who is dead.

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