As President Biden prepares to launch a re-election bid in 2024, allies and associates are gearing up to field a flurry of criticism about his age and mental and physical abilities to take on a grueling campaign, according to a new report.
Democrats are already bracing for critics who point out every time the 80-year-old president trips while boarding Air Force One or makes a gaffe to put a spotlight on his age and mental competence, The Hill reported Sunday.
“It’s really going to put the president to the test,” one Democratic strategist who has worked on recent presidential campaigns told the outlet. “Campaign travel is brutal for all of us, but he has to travel from place to place and be at the top of his game at every stop because he’ll be scrutinized more than any other recent candidate.”
Republicans “are already making age and mental acuity part of their argument,” the Democratic operative said, noting the wall-to-wall coverage when Biden fell off his bicycle last summer near his beach home in Delaware.
“They’re going to be looking for anything to show he’s not up for the job and because he’ll be on the road a lot, there will inevitably be some moments,” the strategist said.
Another strategist told the Hill: “The more he’s out there, the more likely he is to make a gaffe.”
The 2024 contest will be entirely different than the 2020 race when Biden spent much of his time campaigning from the basement of his Delaware home during the coronavirus pandemic, appearing on news programs, late-night talk shows or recording virtual campaign spots.
Former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies mocked Biden for confining himself to the basement, accusing him of “hiding” while they were out on the stump.
Biden won’t have that option this time — and will have to show he can handle the rigors of a campaign while juggling the daily affairs of the nation.
Basil Smikle, the director of the Public Policy Program at Hunter College, who has worked as a strategist with the New York State Democratic Party, said Biden will be judged on his interplay with voters but also on his “vigor as a campaigner.”
“He benefits from being able to control his environment now as president more so than he did in 2020,” Smikle told The Hill. “But even through that lens, the critiques may be more significant.”
The president dismisses concerns about his age by saying “watch me,” and those in the Biden camp point to his arduous trip to Ukraine in February to meet with President Volodymy Zelensky – a visit that required a roughly 10-hour train ride in and out.
Democratic strategist Christy Setzer said the Biden campaign will adapt, “whether that means doing long-form interviews over quick hits or fewer events or whatever.”
“Biden is going to win in 2024 based on accomplishments and vibes and an understanding that he’s not looking to burn the country down,” she told The Hill. “Not events stamina.”
Jason Miller, a longtime adviser for Trump who is also working on the 76-year-old’s 2024 campaign, responded to the Hill report on Twitter with two words: “Weak and feeble.”