The special counsel report which cleared Biden legally has become a loose grenade for his campaign politically. Now everyone is talking about the one thing the Biden campaign didn't want them talking about: Biden's age and mental fitness.
As Karen pointed out this morning, Biden has already made his first post-report gaffe, mixing up the president of Egypt with the president of Mexico. This was meant to reassure us?
In remarks assuring the nation that his mental fitness and memory are good, Joe Biden refers to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi as the “president of Mexico”— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) February 9, 2024
So today there are two types of Democratic operatives being quoted in news stories the first are those like David Axelrod who've been warning about this problem for some time.
“Fair or not, you can’t unring the bell,” said David Axelrod, the former strategist for Barack Obama who has emerged as one of the Democratic Party’s leading figures warning about how voters view Mr. Biden’s age. Mr. Axelrod said the special counsel’s report was so troubling for Democrats because it “goes to the core of what is plaguing Biden politically now, which is a widespread fear that he’s not up to it.”
He added: “The most damaging things in politics are the things that confirm people’s pre-existing suspicions, and those are the things that travel very fast. It’s a problem.”
James Carville also agreed the report and the interview that followed were a real problem and not just a "Fox News issue."
“The public does not view his age as — that’s not a Fox News issue,” he said in an interview after the news conference. “It’s not a Taylor Swift rigging the Super Bowl kind of thing. So — I don’t know how you get out of this.”
“The whole day,” he added, “was confirming an existing suspicion.”
But the voices in the party willing to say this out loud remain few and far between. NBC News found some were willing to speak honestly so long as they could do so anonymously:
“It’s a nightmare,” said a Democratic House member who asked to speak anonymously to provide a frank assessment, adding that “it weakens President Biden electorally, and Donald Trump would be a disaster and an authoritarian.”
“For Democrats, we’re in a grim situation.”...
“This is beyond devastating,” said another Democratic operative, speaking on condition of anonymity to talk candidly about Biden’s shortcomings. “It confirms every doubt and concern that voters have. If the only reason they didn’t charge him is because he’s too old to be charged, then how can he be president of the United States?”
Still, many of the Democratic strategists being quoted today are making the case none of this will matter in the long run.
“This, for many of us, brings back the 11 days prior to Clinton-Trump,” said Bakari Sellers, a Democratic strategist, who predicted that Mr. Biden’s troubles would blow over because the election remains far away. “The blessing for Biden is that he was old before this report, he’ll be old after this report. We all knew he is old.”
Some more examples:
Democrats argue that the president’s age is baked in for most voters, who are keenly aware of his advanced age. They point to Biden’s victory in 2020, when he was 77, as evidence he has already overcome the issue.
“If [Republicans] spend all this money on saying he’s old and his age makes him out-of-touch, who does that move? Who is on the fence on that issue? People have already made up their minds on this,” said Kevin McKeon, a Democratic consultant...
Others, like Democratic strategist Mark Longabaugh, believe that “the president has to just go on being the president, showing he has the vigor to be the president,” but that means “some of these mistakes are going to occasionally happen.”
Biden spent a lot of the 2020 campaign in his basement because of the pandemic. He won't have that excuse this year. People expect to see him campaign and it's not clear he can do that. I agree with Mark Longabaugh that what's needed here is for Biden to show "he has the vigor" but personally I don't see it. Even if you forget about the memory lapses, take a look at that clip above. Does that look like vigor to you? What I see is an old man who needs a nap and I think a lot of other people see it too.