Will Biden Be 86’d?

November 28, 2023

Will Biden Be 86’d?

May 29, 2023

At your intergenerational family Thanksgiving dinner, did you have a spirited discussion about the President’s age? Based upon an informal survey of a dozen friends, “talking turkey” about Joe was the #1 topic at the dinner table.

Based upon what I heard from my parents, I decided to capture their sentiments on video along with Bob, the 14-year-old dog of my sister Cathy and my brother-in-law Bill (trigger warning: this will be the rare Wisdom Well post in which I’ll talk about politics, primarily because I believe age is the #1 impediment to Biden being re-elected). 

As you’ll see in the 2-minute video, my parents are concerned. Dad is 86 and Mom turns 86 in January, so they know something about what it feels like to be in your mid-80s which is the age Biden will be at the end of his second term if he wins re-election (in fact, he’ll be 86). It was convenient to have Bob, the dog, available for the video because I submit that being President is like living in dog years (you age seven years for every chronological year). Look at how Obama aged in office - you can do that in your 50s, but it’s more dangerous in your 80s. 



But, my parents’ concerns aren’t Joe’s biggest problem. My nephew Sam - in his mid-20s - a Santa Cruz progressive doesn’t think he’d vote for Biden again. And, the New York Times/Siena poll from earlier this month showed that Biden’s support amongst younger voters has cratered such that he’s tied with Trump with this demographic which was crucial to electing him in 2020. As someone said to me recently, “Biden may only be three and a half years older than Trump, but he seems a decade older.” We age in public, but we make Presidential decisions in private - that works against Biden. The average age of a U.S. President at inauguration has been 55, but for the last ten Presidents before Trump - from Kennedy to Obama - the average age has been 49. At 82, Biden will be 67% older than that average age if he’s re-inaugurated in January 2025. 

To be fair, Joe Biden has accomplished a lot in less than three years (some argue he’s accomplished more in three years than Obama did in eight), but in 2020, he said he’d be a “bridge to a new generation of leaders.” Turns out Joe thinks that bridge is a lot longer than we did. But, maybe if Dolly Parton can be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader at 77, Joe Biden can be the U.S. President at 82. 

Here’s a plausible (but unlikely) scenario of how this all plays out. The electorate see Biden as too old-looking and Trump as too young-acting and want a Goldilocks solution that is "just right" in terms of their age and maturity. There are a number of great Democratic options (including my long-time mentee Gavin Newsom…I’ll save that mentorship story for another post in the future), but I don’t think Biden is going to step out of the race given the fragile state of the world. And, I don't think the Dems’ funders will require that he step aside as they hope that the positive election results from earlier this month are encouragement that Biden can weather the storm (although they’d love to have him appoint Kamala to the Supreme Court to make way for a more popular VP candidate).

51-year-old Nikki Haley may be the “just right” candidate on the GOP side. She might be the Republican Obama: shattering the gender and another race ceiling given her Indian descent. She's "just right" enough, but not too right, politically. There are a lot of Democrats (and even more independents) who would crossover to vote for her just like Republicans did for Obama in 2008. Her reading of the sentiment of the country is captured here, "Eight years ago, it was good to have a leader who broke things. But, right now, we need a leader who also knows how to put things back together." (this recent NYT profile outlines some of the thinking). I’ve never heard more people say it’s time we had a woman President and, just as the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, proved that the gender glass ceiling needed to be smashed by a conservative, it may be true of Haley as well. 

For those of us who would like to see a Democrat in the White House, we need one of our up-and-comers to change their name to "Generic Democrat" as the NYT/Siena poll showed that candidate whips Trump by 8 points (Biden loses by 4 points to Trump in the poll). But, don’t get overconfident as a "Generic Republican" does even better in the poll versus Biden (11 points). So, there’s even more rationale for the Republicans to dump Trump than the Democrats to 86 Biden.

Under this plausible but unlikely Haley scenario, the biggest Republican funders realize that the combination of upcoming embarrassing legal revelations due to the four cases against Trump and the fact that the majority of Trump’s Presidential cabinet warn that he’s not fit to be President again mean that it’s time for them to change the calculus of this race. The money flowing to Haley right now is impressive. This will allow her to spend nearly seven times more on advertising in the early primary states compared to Ron DeSantis. It’s hard to imagine how Haley beats Trump in the GOP primaries, but as one Democratic strategist said to me recently, “If the Republicans are smart, they make it a two-person race between Trump and Haley. And, if they’re really smart, they choose her because she could create something similar to the Ronald Reagan 1980 election results (a landslide victory over an unpopular one-term President, Jimmy Carter).”

Okay, for those of you who are ready for me to stop talking about politics, just know that I will be turning to another taboo topic tomorrow, sex in our 60s. Here’s one last thing to share. I wanted to understand the history of the term “86’d” and who knew that St. Louis Magazine’s dining critic would have the most comprehensive answer to the variety of ways this term has been used. It’s worth a read. 

-Chip

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