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President Joe Biden turned 81 on Monday as Democrats split on how to address the issue of the his age as he runs for re-election.
Some aides to Biden — who frequently mumbles incoherently during speeches and occasionally appears lost at public events — are advocating for his campaign to lean into his age while others are attempting to brush off the topic. According to recent polls, a growing number of Americans do think that Biden’s age is an important factor to consider as he runs in 2024.
“I don’t think the campaign should be focused on anything but the winning record,” Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA), a member of the Biden campaign’s national advisory board, told CNN. “Everything else about people’s biographies or when their birthdays are – that doesn’t matter. People want to know, what did they do, and what are they going to do?”
Some Democrats have said that Biden’s age should be used to suggest he has wisdom and experience, with some wanting to brand him as “Grandpa Joe.”
One Democrat donor told POLITICO that the Democratic National Committee rebuffed concerns about Biden’s age and “refused to even acknowledge it was a problem.”
“I think the strategy is not to even address it, to consider questions like that stupid or silly,” the donor said. “Literally everyone is talking about it, even amongst donors. But the response is always: ‘What are you going to do?’”
Some in Biden’s inner circle are also concerned about the “optics of age,” according to POLITICO.
“Those close allies believe that Biden is mentally up for the job, but some acknowledge that the president can at times appear frail, according to two people involved in the conversations but not authorized to speak publicly about internal deliberations,” the outlet reported.
Ron Klain, Biden’s former chief of staff, said that the Biden campaign needs to figure out how to deal with questions about age.
“I think everyone knows it’s an issue, and we have to address it,” Klain said. “[Biden will] keep on doing the job, campaigning with vigor and demonstrating to the American people his energy level, which is quite robust.”
The campaign has also proposed various strategies to hide Biden’s aging.
“People close to the president have discussed having him walk shorter distances while on camera. They’ve also advocated, at times, trading in formal shoes for more comfortable ones — both to make his stride seem less stiff, but also to reduce the risk of falls,” POLITICO reported.
Biden has also reportedly attempted to “pass” reporters while out biking. In June 2022, Biden fell while speaking to reporters while on a bike near his beach home in Delaware.