Outside of age and clear cognitive decline, there are a number of factors that make the incumbent’s claim to the Democratic title more tenuous than he, his supporters, and the mainstream media would lead you to believe. Photo credit: Bloomberg/Victoria Blue
With Joe Biden’s intentions made known on April 25, the choices before the American people and a watching world significantly narrow. The next president will likely be one of two people, possibly four (Biden, Trump, Harris, DeSantis), depending on your optimism.
The incumbent remains the odds-on favourite to earn a second term, but getting there still seems uncertain, burdened with providing proof of Biden’s capacity to serve, ability to manage the heavy demands of the office, and demonstrating the will to face withering attacks from his opponent.
Here is what we know about Biden as he faces his 80s and hopes to serve a second term:
- Biden will be 81 while campaigning and turn 82 if victorious and is inaugurated on January 20, 2025 (as of 2020, the average lifespan of an American is 77.28 years).
- Most of the events he attends take place between 10:00am and 4:00pm, and just four events in 2023 before 10:00 in the morning. Just a dozen events after 6:00pm, mostly fundraisers or dinners in 2023.
- Most weekends are spent in Delaware, presumably resting up. Fully 12 entire weekends so far this year with no public events, and it is only mid-May.
- Elthne Dodd, reporting for Buzz about a recent Hunter Biden court appearance wrote, “While a part of Joe Biden’s recent trip to Ireland, Hunter allegedly ‘stayed on a cot in his dad’s room in Dublin.’ Has the Chief Executive become so doddering that he needs overnight supervision?”
- Writing for Axios, Alex Thompson reports, “Some White House aides privately have compared Biden to an aging king: He has a tight-knit palace guard of longtime aides whose first instinct is to protect him, and not take chances.”
These facts tell us that Biden likely wants to replicate his 2020 strategy and campaign close to home. The temptation for the Biden team will be to campaign from the Rose Garden, possibly conducting the most White House-centric campaign since Jerry Ford in 1976.
The thinking also reflects a sense that Americans would be happy to hand the keys to a caretaker president for eight years while Russia and China push forward their foreign policy objectives, the economy faces continuing transitions (including significant climate change initiatives), and deep divisions within the country demand an alert and attentive chief executive, personally engaged, not delegating huge spheres of his responsibilities to subordinates.
These strategies beg the question:
Why is Biden running? To finish the job? Or does he believe his VP Kamala Harris would have difficulty beating Donald Trump and therefore, for the sake of democracy, he must run again?
The most reasonable conclusion to draw about Biden’s intentions rest on his presumption that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee. Biden’s rationale for a second term depends on this sole fact. The opening of his campaign announcement focused on January 6th and the theme he alludes to throughout speaks to protecting democracy from the evil clutches of the former president.
The president insists that Trump and his acolytes present a unique threat to America and Mr. Biden alone provides the cure. With the press offering little to no dissent to Biden’s accusations or assertions of Republican or MAGA world’s efforts to undermine American democracy, his strategy seems heroic, self-sacrificing, and patriotic to his side.
If there are other reasons for Biden to seek a second term, they elude any analysis of the numbers.
- Biden polls at about 41-43 per cent favourable, markedly below safe re-election territory.
- About 70 per cent of voters would prefer he not run again, including a slight majority of Democratic voters.
- Most independents would prefer someone else (about 65 per cent).
- No Chief Executive has served past 80, never mind win re-election.
- As mentioned, Biden is already playing “chicken” with actuarial tables, never mind remaining healthy enough to serve.
- There is a strong case that the nation needs an infusion of youthful leadership, not only in the White House but across Capitol Hill (Trump’s age only muddies this argument on behalf of Republicans).
- Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Marianne Williamson have announced campaigns against him within the Democratic Party and polled close to 30 per cent of the vote between the two of them, numbers that no incumbent has faced in over 30 years.
A recent news report puts an exclamation point on the Biden strategy. Martha Raddatz of ABC News recently asked young Biden voters what they liked about President Biden. One of them, a student at Temple University, Elaina Symes, paused for a full 10 seconds, then awkwardly said, “That he’s not Trump.”
As Mediaite’s Ken Meyer reported, “Raddatz explained that ‘disappointment and frustration’ were the most common reactions she got from the young voters she spoke to about Biden running again. This comes after polls showed that before Biden confirmed his 2024 run, most Americans did not want to see him campaign for a second term. Mark Heller was another voter Raddatz spoke to, and he echoed Symes by explaining that his single reason to vote for Biden is “I’m not gonna vote for Trump.”
There are two risks for the Democrats. The first one surrounds the former president’s lock on the Republican nomination. It appears sound today, but there are no guarantees that Trump will sustain his lead if other factors intervene. What if the GOP nominated a much younger person and the generational difference created problems for the elderly gentleman from Delaware?
The second concern bears itself out in polls. Trump runs even with Biden in most national polls today. Add in a recession, more problems on the border, troubles in Ukraine, Chinese aggression, and more bad news on the Hunter Biden front. Suddenly Biden’s re-election, assumed among the supine media, may not look so assured by November 2024.
Finally, there is the candidacy of Robert Kennedy Jr. While RFK Jr. resembles a pale imitation of his father, he polls at close to 20 per cent in many early surveys and possesses the name recognition and energy to increase his support. If he taps into the progressive grievances, the potential embarrassment to the president grows. The slain senator, whose 1968 campaign probably ensured President Johnson would not seek a second term, lives on in his son’s commitment to environmental justice and devotion to civil rights. While Biden can’t be faulted for trying to keep the progressive wing appeased, RFK Jr.’s message sounds more lyrical than Biden’s prose. If Biden begins to look vulnerable inside the party, the panic could accelerate rapidly.
In a coming column, I will present to readers where the Democrats will turn for relief when, as I predict, it becomes abundantly clear that gambling on Joe Biden for a second term resembles that last attempt to cook one more meal with an empty propane tank.
Dave Redekop is a retired elementary resource teacher who now works part-time at the St. Catharines Courthouse as a Registrar. He has worked on political campaigns since high school and attended university in South Carolina for five years, where he earned a Master’s in American History with a specialization in Civil Rights. Dave loves reading biographies.