Conservative media’s focus on Joe BidenJoe BidenHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook MORE’s health this week underscores how attacks on the former vice president’s age are likely to be a big part of the race if he’s the Democratic nominee.
Biden will turn 77 this fall, and the issue of his age has repeatedly resurfaced since he entered the presidential race.
President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE, who is just four years younger than Biden, already has made a number of allusions to Biden’s age, accusing the former vice president just last month of “not playing with a full deck.”
Democrats and Republicans alike say they expect Trump to continue to play the age card, particularly whenever Biden makes a gaffe.
“They’re going to make it all about him not being physically fit for the job,” said Shermichael Singleton, a Republican strategist who briefly worked for the Trump administration. “Republicans will use it to point out that he’s not ready for the job on day one.”
The Drudge Report this week made a banner headline out of a story from the conservative Washington Examiner about a broken blood vessel in Biden’s left eye.
Mainstream media outlets barely mentioned the incident, and the blood in Biden’s eye was hardly noticeable for many people watching the climate summit hosted live by CNN.
But right-wing outlets played Biden’s eye as a major piece of news, foreshadowing attacks likely to come next summer and fall if Biden, the Democratic front-runner, wins his party’s nomination.
The effort would be familiar to anyone who remembered attacks on Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE’s age and physical stamina in 2016.
Singleton predicted that Republicans will use “the same tactics” they used against Clinton in 2016 after she had pneumonia and nearly fainted at a Sept. 11 event that year.
Democrats — particularly those who worked for Clinton — agree with that sentiment.
Zac Petkanas, a Democratic strategist who worked on Clinton’s 2016 campaign, said it’s part of a larger narrative driven by conservatives.
“All candidates should be on the lookout,” Petkanas said, adding that it “certainly did have an impact” on Clinton’s campaign and could also dent candidates such as Biden.
He also suggested the argument could also be used against any Democrat who could be classified as a senior citizen. The two Democrats chasing Biden in polls are Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names MORE (D-Mass.), who is 70, and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE (I-Vt.), who is 77.
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“Anybody over 60 would be susceptible,” Petkanas said.
Adam Parkhomenko, who also worked on Clinton’s 2016 campaign, added that it’s “part of a limited line of attacks” that Republicans have “always used and are clearly planning to use this time.”
Other Democrats haven’t made an issue of Biden’s age, though some strategists say it will be fair game this fall as the race gets hotter — particularly if Biden makes more verbal flubs.
Implicit, age-based attacks already are appearing.
Tech businessman Andrew YangAndrew YangGeorge Floyd protests show corporations must support racial and economic equality Andrew Yang discusses his universal basic income pilot program Andrew Yang on the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis MORE, for example, said this week that electing Biden would take the country back in time — a nod to the attack by some Democrats that Biden is not from the generation that should lead the party in the future.
It wasn’t an attack on Biden’s health or even a direct attack on his age, but it skirted close to the issue.
Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanMinnesota AG Keith Ellison says racism is a bigger problem than police behavior; 21 states see uptick in cases amid efforts to reopen Congress must fill the leadership void Pelosi pushes to unite party on coronavirus bill despite grumbling from left MORE (D-Ohio), one of the lower-tier Democratic challengers, also said he didn’t think Biden had what it takes to defeat Trump.
“I just think Biden is declining. I don’t think he has the energy,” Ryan said, according to Bloomberg News. “You see it almost daily. And I love the guy.”
Ryan later added he did not know he was speaking to a reporter and that he was trying to raise money for his campaign, Bloomberg reported.
“The Democratic presidential campaign is as much a generational battle as it is an ideological contest,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon, adding that the Democratic victories in 2018 of young progressive candidates such as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezAttorney says 75-year-old man shoved by Buffalo police suffered brain injury How language is bringing down Donald Trump Highest-circulation Kentucky newspaper endorses Charles Booker in Senate race MORE (D-N.Y.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyHow language is bringing down Donald Trump Over 1,400 pro athletes, coaches call on Congress to back bill ending qualified immunity Biden’s right, we need policing reform now – the House should quickly take up his call to action MORE (D-Mass.) against older Democrats “were manifestations of generational conflict.”
Biden’s campaign declined to comment for this story.
Sanders and Warren may not want to make age an issue, but former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegScaled-back Pride Month poses challenges for fundraising, outreach Biden hopes to pick VP by Aug. 1 It’s as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE may try “to capitalize,” Bannon said.
“So any physical problem like Biden’s eye that raises questions about a 70-something candidate’s health will be an ongoing storyline for the media and a problem for his campaign,” he added.
Biden allies say they expect Trump to continue to come after the candidate as the primary plays out and the former vice president looks to retain his front-runner status.
“Trump and Republicans feel threatened by the guy who is going to beat him,” one ally said.
And some Democrats say Trump, who has battled with his weight and faced questions about his own health and mental acumen, should be ready for counterattacks.
“If they want to talk about health problems, we’re happy to have that conversation,” Parkhomenko said.