As President Joe Biden turns 81, the celebration of another birthday brings a reminder of his age and raises concerns among the electorate. Unlike previous presidents who marked their birthdays with political events, Biden plans to have a private celebration with his family in Nantucket. However, his age remains a liability that needs to be addressed. Despite Biden’s team emphasizing his record of accomplishments, polls have shown that this argument does not assuage voters’ concerns.
Some Democrats believe that Biden needs to do more to contrast himself with his likely Republican rival, former President Donald Trump, who has exhibited confusion in recent public appearances. Others argue that Biden’s staff should stop treating him like an old man and let him engage more with the public and reporters. Some even suggest that he should embrace his age, deploy humor, and boast about his experience.
There is no easy solution to the age issue. One thing that cannot be changed is Biden’s age. In a recent poll, 71 percent of respondents in battleground states said Biden was “too old” to be president. This perception is not helped by his lack of commanding presence on the campaign stage. Some voters, especially young people, are put off by Biden’s failure to portray a regal persona.
While White House officials view discussions about Biden’s age as media obsession, they acknowledge that he maintains a rigorous schedule. Despite walking slowly, speaking softly, and occasionally mixing up names and details in public, Biden has managed multiple international crises and conducted extensive diplomatic engagements. The White House chooses to focus on Biden’s decades of experience and the accomplishments he has achieved.
Democratic strategists suggest embracing Biden’s age as a strength rather than being defensive about it. They argue that his success is due to his experience, and the party needs to aggressively contest concerns about his age. Pollsters also note that there are limits to what the White House can do, but Biden should continue connecting personally with people, making jokes about media coverage, and highlighting his administration’s achievements.
Some argue that age has dominated the discussion because Biden has not fully engaged in the contest against Trump. However, in the general election phase, Democrats and independents will likely conclude that it is better to support an octogenarian leader they agree with rather than a soon-to-be octogenarian they consider a threat to democracy and other important issues. Overall, the age debate may fade as the campaign progresses.
As Biden turns 82 next year, the best birthday gift he could hope for is the successful reframing of the campaign as a choice between himself and his opponent. However, this outcome is uncertain and dependent on various factors.