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Joe Battenfeld is a columnist for the Boston Herald.
New concerns about Joe Biden’s age and mental and physical health are raising the question: What is the president’s real exit strategy?
Biden was greeted over the weekend by a long story in the liberal New York Times about his age, with a number of aides anonymously quoted as showing concern about him falling over or being unable to read the teleprompter.
At 79, Biden’s age is becoming an “uncomfortable issue” for him and his party, according to The Times.
“He often shuffles when he walks, and aides worry he will trip on a wire,” The Times reported. “He stumbles over words during public events, and they hold their breath to see if he makes it to the end without a gaffe.”
It was devastating timing for the unpopular Biden, who is already being peppered with questions about his ability to do the job because of his advanced age.
The question is no longer will Biden run for another term, it’s whether he can even complete his first term.
Whether it’s the attempted handshake with no one there, the inability to complete a sentence without flubbing, the reading of “repeat line here” in the teleprompter or the fall from his bicycle, Biden has been hammered by a slew of incidents suggesting that his age is catching up to him.
Biden was reportedly furious that so much attention went to the bike fall, an incident that was played over and over again on late night TV shows.
Aides are careful to only allow Biden to work five days a week from the White House, giving him a much needed weekend break in Delaware. And they are living constantly in fear of the latest gaffe, according to The Times.
Some Democrats believe privately that he won’t run for reelection. He is wallowing in sub-40 percent approval ratings — worse than Donald Trump at this point in his presidency — and facing a possible recession.
Biden has publicly insisted he plans on running for another term, but at this point that’s just posturing to avoid being labeled a lame duck.
The fact that White House aides are now whispering about the age problem indicates they could be trying to send a signal that he should be thinking about getting out.
With the midterms coming up and Democrats facing a possible shellacking, Biden’s fortunes could only get worse. The whispers about him quitting could become a torrent of stories speculating he won’t last. Even Democrats won’t be able to defend him.
The fact is that Democrats will be far better off if Biden bows out after his first term, paving the way for other candidates to get in.
If he steps aside before the midterms, would that be a shocker that helps Democrats keep Congress? Aides could simply portray the resignation as a health issue – not a political one.
But getting Biden out of the way will be more difficult than it looks.
The stubborn septuagenarian won’t go away quietly.