Shock poll for Joe Biden. According to a survey conducted by ABC News/Ipsos, 86% of those questioned believe that the president of the United States is too old for a second term.
The American president will turn 82 in November 2024 and would finish a possible second term at 86. To date he is already the oldest president ever.
At the same time, his main opponent, former President Donald Trump, will be 78 years old in 2024 and would finish his term at 82. Unlike Biden, however, “only” half of Americans believe this is a problem.
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The oldest presidents in US history
The oldest president in history before Biden was Ronald Reagan who died in 1989 at the age of 77. Research from 2015 found that it is likely that the first signs of Alzheimer’s were already there during his second term.
The researchers relied on the analysis of Reagan’s speeches and how they changed, for example by analyzing repetitions, the use of general terms versus specific terms and the use of unique terms. The risk of developing Alzheimer’s is associated precisely with age. 3% of those between 65 and 74 years old have it, 17% between 75 and 84 years old and 32% over 85 years old.
The question of Biden’s age is now an omnipresent theme. In April, Republican primary candidate Nikki Haley suggested on Fox News that Biden was at risk of not living to finish his second term. Thus meaning that voting for him would actually mean voting for Kamala Harris.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the probability of dying in the first part of the second term is around 7% and in the second part 9%. However, not everyone is convinced that Biden is really too old. David Axelrod, who led Barack Obama’s election campaign, claims that voters are not based on their age to vote, but that “presidents are elected based on their ability to address problems.”
The signs of Biden’s aging
Some signs of Biden’s aging already during this term can be seen from the stairs he takes to board Air Force One. Public radio NPR noted how at the beginning of his mandate he used the longest staircase, the one that leads to the top of the plane and where he could pose for scenic photos with the sky in the background (one of the most iconic images of the American presidency).
While now, he very often uses another ladder, shorter and more stable, which was previously used in bad weather. The change appears to have come about after the president tripped during the ceremony at the Air Force Academy.
Recently, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius published an article critical of Biden arguing that “President Biden should not run again in 2024” because age is a real issue and has been “the topic of discussion at the dinner table in all of America” during the summer.
The American political class getting older
However, it should be considered that the American political class has aged.
Biden’s main challenger in 2020, Bernie Sanders, was 79 years old. Also, the Senate majority leader, the Dem Chuck Schumer, is over 70. And the Senate minority leader, the Republican Mitch McConnell, is 81 years old (who in July during a press conference remained frozen staring into space for about twenty seconds).
There are also those who decided that they were too old to still be involved in politics such as Senator Mitt Romney. Who, announced that he does not intend to run again in 2024 as “I have been [serving my country] in one way or another for twenty-five years . After another term I will be over 80 years old.”
Joe Biden’s gaffes
As president, one of the gaffes that went around the world was that of the conference in which he was announcing that he had signed an executive order with measures to support the right to abortion. Biden – from the teleprompter he was using to read the speech – also accidentally read some suggestions left by his collaborators. “Interestingly, the percentage of women who are registered to vote is always higher than the percentage of men who do so,” he said, before adding, “end quote, repeat sentence.”
In June 2023 then, Biden concluded a speech in Connecticut by saying “God save the Queen”, the traditional motto of the British anthem which has now become “God save the King” after the accession to the throne of Charles III.
Less than a week later, Biden welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House. During the national anthems, the US president solemnly raised his right hand over his heart. Only to realize after 17 seconds that the orchestra was playing the anthem of the host country: India. Biden then slowly let his hand slide into the more neutral starting position, along his sides
And again in June 2023, speaking to journalists, Biden confused Ukraine with Iraq. To a question about Vladimir Putin, the commander in chief replied: “He’s clearly losing the war in Iraq. He’s losing the war at home. And he’s become a bit of a pariah around the world.”
More recently, in February 2024, Biden said he would see François Mitterrand in 2021. But the former French president died in 1996.