- The Washington Times - Monday, November 21, 2022

Democratic support for President Biden to run for reelection has surged since the midterm contests even as he becomes the first octogenarian to occupy the White House, prompting questions about whether he can sprint through the 2024 tape or if his momentum will peter out.

A USA Today/Ipsos Poll said the share of Democrats who think Mr. Biden, who turned 80 on Sunday, could win again is up to 71%, from 60% who felt that way in August.

Exactly three-quarters of Republicans say the same about Mr. Trump, a 76-year-old who recently announced a presidential bid from his Florida estate. That is a better share than within Mr. Biden’s party, but 7 points lower than the 82% of Republicans who were bullish about the ex-president before the midterms.

The GOP retook the House. However, the party failed to regain the Senate or win key state offices. The anticipated “red wave” never arrived.

The results put a spring in Mr. Biden‘s step after many pundits predicted doom for his party and his standing as a 2024 candidate, given his age and an economy struggling with inflation.

Mr. Biden saw his biggest gains among voters younger than 35 (to 69% from 53%) and women (to 71% from 55%), the pollsters said.

Some in the GOP are looking for an alternative to Mr. Trump, meanwhile, because some of his hand-picked candidates lost key races Nov. 8. Critics say he‘s become a drag on the Republican Party.

Biden‘s midterm theme about saving democracy, though widely scoffed at before the election, was quite effective with independents. Moreover, for people suffering from Trump fatigue, ‘No Drama’ Biden has been easy on the nervous system,” said Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “There was desperate craving for a truce and he represented a turn toward normality.”

Age looms in the background of the potential matchup between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a potential GOP presidential contender, highlighted the issue over the weekend. She said Republicans are “behind the times” while pointing out Mr. Biden‘s record-setting age.

“Happy birthday, Mr. President — but it’s time for a younger generation to lead,” Ms. Haley tweeted.

Commercial airline pilots face a mandatory retirement age of 65 and many states require judges to step aside around 70.

Washington doesn’t impose age limits on its leaders. Voters send who they want, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, who is 89, and Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, who is the same age and just won reelection.

Still, only Mr. Trump, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan served in the White House in their 70s before Mr. Biden. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland — both over age 80 — have decided to step down from Democratic leadership after nearly two decades atop the party’s congressional wing.

Mr. Biden‘s age had prompted open speculation about a new standard bearer in the coming cycle — Vice President Kamala Harris, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg are among those mentioned. There are also sleeper picks like Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat in swing-state North Carolina who joined Mr. Biden for his Thanksgiving turkey pardons on Monday.

Relative midterm success for the Democrats is turning that narrative on its head, and analysts say age is a thorny issue in politics, especially since seniors are a growing and reliable voting bloc.

“Age is a tricky thing to use against a president. Sure, there are lots of videos of Biden gaffes and his walking like a zombie,” Mr. Baker said. “But some baby boomers are verging on 80 and might resent opponents questioning Biden‘s fitness.”

The White House has defended Mr. Biden‘s stamina. It points to a busy schedule that would be tiring for anyone and includes poring over briefing books, marathon phone calls and lengthy meetings with grieving families after mass shootings. The president just completed a grueling around-the-world diplomatic trip with high-stakes summits in Egypt, Cambodia and Indonesia.

“As Joe Biden has said since before becoming the most experienced president in American history, ‘Watch him.’ Since then he has won a record-setting amount of votes, achieved unprecedented job creation, stopped big corporations from paying nothing in taxes, empowered Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, and signed the most significant gun reform in 30 years and the biggest infrastructure investment since the 1950s,” said deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates.

“He has earned the most successful legislative record of any president since Lyndon Johnson and just secured the best midterms outcome of any Democratic president in 40 years before embarking on a multiple-continent foreign trip that yielded breakthrough after breakthrough for America in the world,” Mr. Bates said. “Keep watching.”

Mr. Biden‘s recent swing through Asia felt like a victory lap instead of a retreat from election fallout, and Democrats in the latest poll were split, 50%-50%, on whether he should be the nominee in 2024.

In August, only 44% felt that way and 56% wanted to see a change.

A majority of Republicans still want Mr. Trump to be the nominee, 54% to 46%, though that is down from his 59%-41% edge in August.

“Pre-midterms, Trump had an advantage with his base headed towards 2024,” Clifford Young, president of U.S. Public Affairs at Ipsos, told USA Today. “Now, post-midterms, Trump has been winged and Democrats are more confident in Biden, setting this up to be a close fight. The race is on.”

The survey of about 2,000 adults was performed on Nov. 15 and Nov. 16 and has a margin of error of 2.5 points for all respondents.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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