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The Biden Age Paradox

joe biden
What concerns most Democrats about Biden’s geriatric status is the pervasive doubt it has seeded in the electorate and the undeniable and punishing toll that has taken on him politically. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images
John Heilemann
June 9, 2024

In the wake of the Trump trial verdict, my longtime pal Dan Balz of The Washington Post—the unofficial inheritor of his late, great, former colleague David Broder’s unofficial status as dean of the national political press corps, and a man still sprier at age 78 than I was in my freaking thirties—dropped a typically sage piece in which he argued that, while the ultimate impact of Trump’s 34-count guilty verdict was presently unknowable, its arrival marked the start of a new phase in the 2024 election. “The seven-week trial,” Dan wrote, “amounted to an extended freeze in a campaign that has been static since last year”—a period when the former president was mostly absent from the hustings and the current one studiously kept his trap shut about the prosecution to avoid adding grist to the MAGA-sphere’s bullshit mill. But now that the trial was over, the campaign would revert, if not to normal—fat chance of that—then to something that, in form and function, bears at least some dim resemblance to presidential campaigns of the past.

This, I would say, was (and is) the operating thesis of Joe Biden’s reelection team in Wilmington and his political gurus inside the White House. And it was the basis for a certain rush of hopefulness in Bidenworld a week ago, as they entered the brave new world of post-verdict politics: that with the Trump trial no longer blotting out the sun, the press might finally shine a bit of light on Biden again if they called some smart plays and he ran them well, in turn enabling them to push the ball upfield in the time-tested style of Woody Hayes—“three yards and a cloud of dust.”