Biden’s generation cedes the stage as he plots his next act

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Biden's generation cedes the stage as he plots his next act
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While there have been simmering tensions within the Democratic Party over a generational change, Biden’s fate appears to be intrinsically tied to Donald Trump, whom he defeated in 2020 and viewed as a threat to American democracy.

The former president has already declared his own 2024 campaign and Biden has made it clear privately that he believes he may be the only Democrat who can defeat Trump again. And while Pelosi had an established line of succession in the House, those close to Biden say the ground to follow him is much more shaky.

“Why would he come out now?” said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. “He has no clear successor and what matters here is Trump. Joe Biden is seen as Donald Trump’s killer and many Democrats believe he can do it again.

In Washington, old age has become the norm.

Biden is the nation’s first octogenarian president and the oldest man to hold the post. And he has plenty of senior peers populating the halls of power: Senate Majority Leader chuck schumer 71, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is 80 years old and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is 83 years old, to name a few. Moreover, Trump himself is 76 years old.

After Pelosi’s announcement, Hoyer also decided to step down from his leadership role, paving the way for a slate of lawmakers decades younger. Pelosi’s expected successor as Democratic leader will be the 52-year-old Rep. Hakeem Jeffries from New York.

But Pelosi steps down as his party moves into the minority. Biden is virtually guaranteed to remain his party’s standard bearer in 2024 and would run for re-election on the back of an enviable legislative record and midterm results that exceeded Democratic expectations.

“The midterm elections reiterated that capable and effective government is a priority for the majority of voters, above all else,” said Adrienne Elrod, a Democratic strategist who worked on the 2016 campaign. Hillary Clinton.

In 2020, Biden aides knew the candidate’s age was an issue and briefly considered committing to serving only one term. It was rejected. But Biden offered himself as a “bridge” for young Democrats.

“I see myself as a candidate for transition,” he told an online fundraiser, suggesting he would help train the next generation of leaders. “You need to have more people on the bench who are ready to come in – ‘Coach me, I’m ready to play.’ Well, there are a lot of people who are ready to play, women and men.

But getting away from the White House is more difficult once it becomes his home. And Biden has spent nearly half his life seeking the job, having launched his first presidential campaign in 1988.

There are plenty of reasons those around Biden believe he will run again: He presided over a string of legislative victories, including a bipartisan infrastructure bill and measures that enshrine Democratic priorities for change climate and health care; it continues to spearhead a Western response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine; and Democrats this month clung to the Senate and held off a Republican wave in the House.

And then there is Trump. Two years ago, the party coalesced around Biden as a safe bet — a candidate who didn’t garner the most excitement but who he said had the best chance of beating Trump, especially more than a pandemic broke out. And even though polls now show many in the party want him to step down, dozens of key Democrats think Biden should stay the course.

“He wasn’t my first or second choice for president, but I’m a convert,” the rep said. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash), recently told POLITICO. “I never thought I would say that, but I think he should run for another term and finish this program that we have established.”

Jeffries, emblematic of the House’s new vanguard, also offered his support: “I hope President Biden will seek re-election and I look forward to supporting him.”

If Biden opted against a run, few in Washington believed the field would be clear for Vice President Kamala Harris, and it could create a deadly primary battle. But some Democrats welcome change, even if it’s messy.

Ohio Senate candidate Tim Ryan, who has dodged the president at campaign events this year, has explicitly called on Biden in recent months to step down in the name of “generational change.” Other Democrats are less confident about Biden’s chances against non-Trump Republicans.

But parties rarely take on a sitting president, and when they do, the resulting major challenges — like Ronald Reagan versus Gerald Ford in 1976 and Ted Kennedy versus Jimmy Carter four years later — almost always weaken the incumbent. . It is also rare for presidents to give up a re-election bid, with those who step down having usually been driven out by external crises, such as Harry Truman by the Cold War/Korean War and Lyndon Johnson by the Vietnam War.

While Biden’s polling numbers are poor, he leads Trump in hypothetical matchups. The threat posed by Trump weighs heavily on the Biden family; First lady Jill Biden, who is said to be supportive of the idea of ​​running for re-election, will play a central role in the talks. Although the aides are taking steps to prepare for another race, a final decision on a campaign is unlikely to be made for months.

Discussions of Biden’s age have been rife throughout the Beltway ever since he signaled he was launching his third presidential campaign in 2019. He had visibly aged since serving as vice president. His stride had also shortened and slowed, not helped by the broken foot he had suffered while playing with one of his dogs during the transition. He has always been prone to verbal gaffes and now tires more easily, according to those close to him.

Although notorious for his own rhetorical missteps, Trump has already tried to make Biden’s age an issue in their first game – nicknaming his opponent ‘Sleepy Joe’ and claiming he’s no longer with him – without great impact. The Republican attacks have only continued, with a persistent drumbeat that Biden is unfit for office.

Biden advisers believe the 2020 race was about the age of the current president — he would be 86 when he leaves office if he serves a full second term — and voters felt more comfortable with older people in positions of power, whether in politics or business. White House officials said he will undergo a routine medical examination in the coming months.

During his most recent checkup, conducted last November, his doctor said Biden “remains fit for duty and is fully performing all of his responsibilities without any exemptions or accommodations.”

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