OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
There have been questions raised regarding President Joe Biden’s overall fitness, at 80 years old, to withstand the rigors of being the leader of the free world since his term began in January 2021, but as time has gone by — and Biden’s struggles appear to have worsened — a growing number of Americans are more concerned than ever.
According to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, a majority of Americans, by a 62 percent-to-36 percent margin, think Biden does not have the mental capacity to continue serving as president beyond his first term.
“Biden did, however, actually see a slight increase in his approval rating to 45%, up 4 points from last month. That indicates there will likely be a significant number of people who believe there are serious concerns about Biden’s mental fitness but will vote for him anyway,” NPR reported.
Regarding mental fitness, former President Donald Trump, who is the current 2024 GOP frontrunner, did better, with 52 percent saying it was a concern compared to 43 percent who said it isn’t.
Biden at 80 is the oldest president in U.S. history. He’s been the subject of relentless accusations from the right about his acuity, but his age has also been a worry of Democrats, concerned about whether Biden gives them the best chance to win in 2024, especially if it’s Trump as the GOP nominee again.
Almost 4 in 10 Democrats said his mental fitness was a real concern as did 7 in 10 independents and, as expected, more than 8 in 10 Republicans. Several key Democratic and swing groups saw Biden’s mental fitness as a real concern, including those 45 or younger (69%), GenZ/Millennials (67%), men (66%), those without college degrees (66%), non-whites (64%) and those who live in the suburbs (63%), for example.
“It’s a serious vulnerability that will have Democrats biting their nails as the campaign heats up and holding their breath with each speech, news conference and debate,” the report added.
Biden will be 82 on Inauguration Day in January 2025 if he wins reelection; Trump would be 78 if he becomes the party’s nominee and goes on to defeat Biden in a rematch.
Last week, during a chatfest at the Financial Times Weekend Festival in Washington, D.C., former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked about Biden’s near-fall down some steps at the G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan, a few days earlier.
“There was that heart-stopping moment when he almost fell over coming down the stairs a day or two ago,” Financial Times editor Edward Luce noted. “He didn’t use a railing, and Jill wasn’t there with him.
“Every time that happens, your heart is in your mouth because these things could be consequential. Is that a concern?” he then asked.
“It’s a concern for anyone. We’ve had presidents who had fallen before who were a lot younger, and people didn’t go into heart palpitations,” Clinton responded.
“But his age is an issue, and people have every right to consider it,” Clinton noted further, in a departure from other Democrats who have defended Biden by pushing back against criticisms regarding his age.
“But, you know, he has this great saying – and I think he’s right – don’t judge him for running against the Almighty but against the alternative. I am of the camp that I think he’s determined to run; he has a good record that, three years ago, people would not have predicted would have gotten done,” Clinton claimed.
Biden’s top aides have consistently downplayed any concerns regarding his mental and physical fitness. Last summer, when asked about Biden’s health by former CNN host Don Lemon, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre dismissed the question: “That is not a question that we should be even asking.”
“Just look at the work he does. And look how he’s delivering for the American public,” she replied.