Is Joe Biden too old to be president?

Posted at 5:32 PM, Jul 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-31 23:47:10-04

Joe Biden is 76 years old. If he wins the White House in 2020, he will be 78 years old when he takes office.

That would make him the oldest first-term president in American history — eclipsing, by eight years(!), the record set by Donald Trump when he was elected in 2016 at age 70.

While Biden allies insist he is totally and completely healthy, his performance — listless and, at times, just behind the beat — at the first debate performance added to the whispers that maybe time had caught up with the former vice president.

As The New York Times wrote today:

“As Mr. Biden prepares for the next debate this Wednesday night, which will include a rematch with Ms. Harris, he and his advisers are grappling with how to make sure he doesn’t appear so shaky, cognizant that a repeat performance could do lasting damage to his campaign and erode his advantage in the polls. Several advisers emphasized that Mr. Biden is in excellent health, and said he will be more prepared to defend his record and more willing to draw contrasts with his opponents than he was at the June debate.”

Polling provides a mixed bag on the question. More than 6 in 10 (63%) said they would be willing to vote for a candidate over 70 years old in Gallup polling in May.

Of course, that means almost 4 in 10 people would not vote for a candidate over 70. And out of the 12 character traits Gallup asked about, a president over 70 years old ranked third in terms of how it would negatively affect voters’ decisions. Only an atheist presidential candidate (60% would vote for) and a socialist candidate (47%) scored lower.

What’s less clear is whether Biden’s age (or that of Bernie Sanders, who is even older than Biden at 77) matters as much or at all, given that Trump will be 74 years old on Election Day 2020.

That is a question for the general election, however. And Biden needs to get there first.

The Point: It’s hard to imagine any candidate overtly asking the age question of Biden in this week’s debate. But there are ways to raise the issue without really raising it — “it’s time for a new generation of leadership” etc. — that a candidate or two might try.