Joe Biden's age 'major concern' for many as he turns 80 - US Professor

20 Nov 2022 03:55pm
Joe Biden - AFP
Joe Biden - AFP
HOUSTON - US President Joe Biden turned 80 on Sunday, meaning he would be 82 if he decides to run for a second presidential term in 2024.

Biden was already the oldest president to be sworn into office at 78 and would surpass that milestone if he won reelection.

"I think clearly Biden's age is a major concern, his mental acuity is a major concern and his overall health is a major concern," said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones.

Jones told Anadolu Agency that despite Biden's age, "he is president of the United States and is eligible to run for another term and it is difficult for any Democrat to say he should not run for reelection."

Biden has not shied away from concerns about his age, which he addressed in an interview before the Nov 8 midterm elections.

"I think it’s a legitimate thing to be concerned about anyone’s age, including mine," said Biden.

"That’s totally legitimate. But I think the best way to make the judgment is to, you know, watch me. Am I slowing up? Am I - don’t have the same pace?"

With Democrats coming off a much better-than-expected midterm showing -- retaining their majority in the Senate and losing the House of Representatives by a razor-thin margin -- Biden seems to be steering toward throwing his hat into the ring for a second term.

"Our intention is to run again,” he said during an interview last week. "That’s been our intention regardless of what the outcome of this (midterm) election was.”

"I think everybody wants me to run, but we’re going to have discussions about it,” said Biden, adding that it would be a "family decision."

Jones said Biden's decision would be contingent upon whether former President Donald Trump decided to run again.

Trump declared his candidacy on Nov 15.

"Trump’s decision for now makes it more likely Biden will run, and also, in many respects, makes the age issue less relevant," said Jones, who pointed out that Trump was the oldest US president to be sworn in at 70 before giving up that milestone when he lost to Biden in 2020.

Trump is now 76 and would be 78 during the 2024 campaign if chosen as the Republican nominee.

"Since (Biden) and Trump are so close in age, and both too old in the eyes of most Americans to be elected president in 2024 ... if both are the respective Democratic and Republican candidates, that’s the choice Americans will have," said Jones.

"Biden views himself as providing Democrats with the best hope of defeating Trump, and thus is more likely now to run for reelection."

With a possible Biden-Trump rematch in 2024 on the horizon, American voters must decide not only who should be their next president but who is going to be the healthiest candidate.

"I think health and competency will be key to both Biden's and Trump's reelection bids," Norb Aikin from Cortland, New York said in an email to Anadolu Agency.

"Biden's health and mental acuity could be pivotal down the stretch, as could Trump's. As soon as either one shows signs of (real or not) slippage, the other side is going to pounce on it."

"I'm not concerned about President Biden becoming the first sitting octogenarian president," said Nate Jones, of Pacoima, California.

"The president of Cameroon is almost 90, Pope Francis is almost 86, and Queen Elizabeth was still reigning at 96. The president still appears to be physically and mentally sharp and being the leader of any country at age 80 is without a doubt impressive."

"If Biden decides to run for reelection, Jones said it could pose a conundrum for the Democratic Party, trading off concerns about age with having a viable candidate on the ticket to defeat the Republicans.

"If Trump is the candidate, Democrats believe Biden would be the better candidate than (Kamala) Harris," said Jones.

"If Biden decides not to run, then Vice President Kamala Harris becomes the next in line to run for president in 2024. While Biden may not be the best candidate for 2024, he is still the better option than Kamala Harris for Democrats."

"The downside for Democrats, if Biden says he doesn't want to run for reelection, he becomes a lame duck president for the last two years in office and the new Republican-controlled House of Representatives doesn't have to work with him on any new legislation," he said.

"It's a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario."

For Trump, Jones said age is not really a major factor when it comes to running for president despite a four-year age gap between Trump and Biden.

"When it comes to Trump's age, Republicans don't like him because of his age, they don't like him because he's Trump," he said.

"Trump's age doesn't have the same issues as Biden. He doesn't seem to have the lapses that Biden does when it comes to mental acuity. Trump is still out there going to rallies and getting his brand out to his base without any issues."​​

"However, Trump is not a good candidate for Republicans. Trump combines Kamala Harris' high negatives with Joe Biden's age and negative image," said Jones, adding that it is good news for Biden.

"Biden running works a lot better if Trump is the opponent," he said. "Both Joe Biden and Democrats believe Biden is a viable candidate against Trump because he beat Trump in 2020."

Jones stressed that Trump is not a shoo-in to be the Republican presidential nominee, pointing out there is a big hurdle in his way --- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who has slowly inched his way to becoming the frontrunner for the party.

That could spell good news for Republicans -- a scenario Jones said Democrats need to be prepared to face.

"If DeSantis runs, Biden could step down, let Harris run, but she's probably going to lose," said Jones, who believes a DeSantis presidential bid and possible presidency would still be a consolation to Democrats versus having Trump in office for a second time.

"On the Democratic side, they see the country being in less peril if they lose to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis," said Jones.

"The idea of a Trump presidency seems to be an existential crisis for the country. If it were DeSantis, while Democrats reject his policies and philosophies, he doesn't represent an existential threat to the country."

Jones believes Biden is the Democratic choice in 2024 for the time being but depending on whether Republicans choose Trump or DeSantis could throw a wrench into Democrats' plans.

If it does end up being Biden-Trump Round 2, Americans will be certain to have the oldest president in US history for a third straight term.

"It's not a situation that's normal. It's not too common to see that in the world," said Jones. "It's more common to find that scenario in a longstanding dictatorship where they serve into their eighties and nineties - like Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, 95 - rather than democracies where the candidates face the voters at the polls in a regular election."

"No Fortune 500 company would even remotely have a CEO in their seventies let alone in their eighties, but the leader of the most powerful county in the world is run by an octogenarian and could potentially have two octogenarians running in 2024," he added. - BERNAMA

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