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Age issue resurfaces as election trouble spot for Biden

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Voter concerns about President Joe Biden’s age and mental acuity have long been his biggest liability.

And a day that technically brought him good news on the legal front – a special counsel’s decision not to file criminal charges over mishandling of classified documents – may have compounded that political challenge.

Why We Wrote This

President Joe Biden’s advisers have long tried to limit his interactions with the media. More appearances could help reassure voters, but Thursday night’s question-and-answer session showed the risks.

In a hastily scheduled appearance before the cameras Thursday evening, Mr. Biden took exception to special counsel Robert Hur’s characterization of him in his final report as someone who would come off in court as “a well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

“My memory is fine,” Mr. Biden said testily, even as he misidentified Egypt’s president as the president of Mexico. 

Former President Donald Trump has also misstated key figures in recent months, mixing up Republican challenger Nikki Haley and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But surveys make clear that voters see the 81-year-old incumbent’s mental and physical health as a greater problem than that of the 77-year-old former president.

An NBC News poll released Thursday showed that 76% of registered voters have concerns about the president’s age. Fewer than half have the same concerns about former President Trump. Mr. Trump’s multiple felony charges are a much bigger issue for voters, with 61% saying they have concerns.

Voter concerns about President Joe Biden’s age and mental acuity have long been his biggest liability.

And a day that technically brought him good news on the legal front – a special counsel’s decision not to file criminal charges over President Biden’s mishandling of classified documents from his days as vice president – may have compounded that political challenge.

In a hastily scheduled appearance before the cameras Thursday evening, Mr. Biden took exception to special counsel Robert Hur’s characterization of him in his final report as someone who would come off in court as “a well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

Why We Wrote This

President Joe Biden’s advisers have long tried to limit his interactions with the media. More appearances could help reassure voters, but Thursday night’s question-and-answer session showed the risks.

“My memory is fine,” Mr. Biden said testily, even as he misidentified Egypt’s president as the president of Mexico. Mr. Biden has also recently misstated the leaders of Germany and France in remarks at fundraisers, referring to long-ago leaders as if they are still alive and in power.

Former President Donald Trump – the heavy favorite for his party’s 2024 presidential nomination – has also misstated key figures in recent months, appearing to mix up top Republican challenger Nikki Haley and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and apparently confusing the leaders of Turkey and Hungary.

But surveys make clear that voters see the 81-year-old incumbent’s mental and physical health as a greater problem than that of the 77-year-old former president.



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