Too old to run again? Biden faces questions about his age as tantrums mount

Joe Biden is having a tough summer. The United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, ending federal protections for access to abortion. Although gasoline prices are currently falling, they remain high and have driven inflation to its largest annual increase in over 40 years. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has finally ended any hope the president had of pushing a climate bill through Congress. With an evenly divided Senate, Biden’s options for addressing those issues — or implementing any of his other legislative priorities — are bleak.

The American people have taken note. Biden’s approval rating has steadily declined since April and is now in the high 30s. A recent Monmouth poll found that only 10% of Americans think the country is moving in the right direction.

Amid this pessimism, Democrats are bracing for a possible bombardment in the midterm elections, as Republicans appear poised to regain control of the House of Representatives. Faced with a bleak outlook for 2022, some Democrats are already looking ahead to 2024 and wondering if Joe Biden is the best person to lead the party and the nation?

Questions about whether Biden should seek re-election in 2024 have intensified in recent weeks. A New York Times/Siena College poll this month found that 64% of Democrats say they prefer a different candidate for 2024. Among Democrats under 30, that figure jumps to 94%.

Ellen Sciales, spokeswoman for the youth-led climate group Sunrise Movement, said voters of her generation were growing increasingly disillusioned with Biden and other Democratic Party leaders. After voting at near-record highs in 2020, young voters are now watching in dismay as the climate crisis accelerates and reproductive rights are stripped away, Sciales said.

“Democrats should treat the loss of my generation as an existential threat,” Sciales said. “We have warned Democrats that unless they enact real meaningful policy immediately, like what was promised in Build Back Better, they will lose the engagement of so many voters, threatening their chances in 2022. , 2024 and even further.”

In addition to his dwindling approval rating, Biden faces increasingly pointed questions about his age. At 79, Biden is already the oldest president in US history, and if re-elected, he would be 86 when his second term ends. The Times/Siena poll found age and poor job performance were the top two reasons Democrats said Biden should not run in 2024.

The White House has publicly dismissed concerns about Biden’s aging. “It’s not even a question we should be asking,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said last month.

But some of Biden’s aides privately tell a different story. According to a recent report from the New York Times, White House staffers have expressed reluctance to plan long international trips for Biden, fearing they will be too taxing for him. They also worry that Biden’s slower, more shuffling gait could bring him down, and they worry about his tendency to confuse words in speeches. David Axelrod, who previously served as chief campaign strategist for Barack Obama, said Biden’s age could be a “major issue” if he seeks re-election.

A New York Times columnist wrote an article last week titled “Joe Biden is too old to be president again,” but pointed out that it was a broader issue with American politics. “There is a problem here that goes beyond Biden himself. We are governed by a gerontocracy. Biden is 79 years old. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is 82. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is 83. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is 71. Often it’s not clear if they understand how broken this country is.

Biden insists he still plans to run again in 2024, assuming his health cooperates. “I am a big acceptor of fate. Fate has intervened in my life many, many times,” Biden said in December. “If I have the health that I am in now, if I am healthy, then in fact I would run again.”

But those comments haven’t drowned out the 2024 conversation, even among fellow Democrats. When progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was asked if she would support Biden as the Democratic nominee in 2024, she hesitated.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” Ocasio-Cortez said last month. Weeks later, she dodged questions from late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert about whether she would consider launching her own presidential campaign in 2024.

If Ocasio-Cortez or another progressive leader chose to challenge Biden, it would be a historic candidacy. No sitting Democratic president has faced a major challenge since 1980, when Ted Kennedy chose to run against Jimmy Carter as the country faced record inflation and gasoline shortages. Carter managed to defeat Kennedy in the primary, but he ultimately lost the general election to a Republican candidate who promised to “make America great again”: Ronald Reagan.


Jon Ward, author of Camelot’s End, which chronicles the 1980 Democratic primary, said there are clear parallels and important distinctions between Carter and Biden. While Carter had a clear opponent in Kennedy, it’s unclear who – if any – of the Democratic Party’s highest ranks would challenge Biden.

But one thing that works in Biden’s favor is time, Ward said. The 2024 presidential election is still more than two years away, giving the economy some breathing room to regain greater stability.

“It’s time for inflation to come down and the economy to recover,” Ward said. “However, it’s unclear where we’re headed, as there are many forecasts of recession and even the prospect of the very ‘stagflation’ that has crippled Carter.”

Biden’s allies insist he has time to improve the nation’s economy and broader prospects, and they generally reject polls indicating he should step down in 2024.

“The polls are a snapshot of the times,” said Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist and senior adviser to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Truth be told, what’s hot today could be cold tomorrow, and what’s cold today, it could be very hot tomorrow.”

Seawright criticized the recent 2024 chatter as “manufactured outrage on the part of a few in our party”, suggesting that those indulging in speculation should instead rededicate themselves to the midterm elections.

Even some of the progressives who did not back Biden in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary echo that point. Rahna Epting, executive director of the progressive group MoveOn, said she has yet to speak about the 2024 election due to her focus on the midterm elections.

Underscoring the urgency of the upcoming elections, Epting noted that some of the gubernatorial, state legislature, and secretary of state races being held this year will have far-reaching implications for 2024. A number of Republican candidates who have embraced Trump’s lies about widespread fraud in 2020 The race is now on for positions that could help them determine election rules in 2024.

“We’re going to find out if our elections in 2024 will be free and fair, depending on who ends up in power in 2022,” Epting said. “The very terrain of our democracy and our electoral system is going to be decided in this election cycle.”

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