Biden and Age: A Backup Plan for Dems?


President Biden clearly doesn’t want to quit the 2024 presidential race. And he shouldn’t, now. With Super Tuesday, March 5, coming on fast, other potential Democratic candidates wouldn’t have time to organize campaigns. But a good idea has been floated in The New York Times—by conservative columnist Ross Douthat and liberal Ezra Klein: that Biden could withdraw and let the Democratic National Convention pick the party’s ticket in Chicago in late August.

Both columnists say that Biden has been a good president. Klein says he’s fully capable of being president, but he’s failing as a candidate—looking old and frail and avoiding media interviews, including the chance to speak to a Super Bowl audience of 123 million people.

Klein says that the Democrats Biden trusts—Barack Obama, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Jill Biden, and his former top aides—have to persuade him to follow Pelosi’s example and pass the torch to a new generation while he’s a success. The cautionary example is Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s holding on so long that Donald Trump gets his way with the Supreme Court.

Biden can probably wait until mid-May or early June to look at his prospects. If they remain as dicey as they look now, other presidential prospects would have the time to mount a convention strategy.

As both Douthat and Klein observe, Biden once called himself a “bridge” to a younger generation of Democrats. And they also point out that, through 1968, convention delegates of party chieftains chose the parties’ candidates, including Abraham Lincoln and FDR. Klein says that Biden might be able to beat Trump, but the risk is that Trump wins and American democracy dies.

At the moment, Trump strongly outpolls Biden in every crucial swing state but Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, according to

Biden’s dilemma is that despite a robust economy and falling inflation, his job approval ratings remain dismal: 40.1 positive, 55.9 negative, according to the average of 15 polls reviewed by RealClearPolitics. That’s little changed from his average of 39.8 percent approval for the whole of inflation-ravaged 2023.

According to a late-January NBC poll Biden trails Trump by 22 percent on who’s better handling the economy, 33 percent on controlling immigration, 23 percent on having the physical and mental health to serve as president, 21 percent on dealing with crime, 16 percent on being competent and effective, and 11 percent on improving America’s standing in the world. Biden outpolls Trump by just 2 percent on protecting democracy, 12 on dealing with the issue of abortion, and 17 on treating immigrants humanely.

Biden delivers strong speeches defending his record and denouncing Donald Trump’s almost-daily outrages, the latest of which is his threat to refuse to come to the aid of any NATO country failing to spend 2 percent of its GDP on defense. He said infamously that he’d “encourage Russia to do whatever the hell they want” to those countries.

Of 33 NATO countries, according to the Washington Post, 11 currently spend more than 2 percent, topped by Poland, at 3.9 and the US at 3.5. Another 11 are within .5 percent. Only eight are under that and only Luxembourg spends less than one percent. NATO’s two newest members, Finland and Sweden, spent 1.7 and 1.3 in 2022.

Trump’s threat is on top of his demanding House Republicans to refuse to pass aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan—obvious gifts to the murderous Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Ayatollah Khamenei. Trump also torpedoed a bipartisan border control bill because he wanted to keep the issue alive for the 2024 election.

But none of this seems to offset the public perception — based on Biden’s shambling gait, and frequent verbal gaffes — that he’s too old to serve as president; by contrast 27 percent less think Trump is too old. I thought that Special Counsel Robert Hur’s report calling Biden an elderly man with a “significantly limited memory” would be a coup d’grace that would force Biden to drop his re-election bid.

Hur’s report was immediately followed by an ABC News poll showing that 89 percent of voters think Biden is too old to be president, up from 76 percent in September. That current number includes 76 percent of Democrats. Instead of quitting, Biden attacked Hur and declared himself fit to serve in a less-than-reassuring press conference.

Even though Democrats are (and ought to be) nervous about the 2024 race, no leader has even hinted that Biden should step aside. Democrats and Biden deserve a few months to turn things around. And polls indicate that if Trump is convicted of a serious crime, Biden would pull ahead.

But if Trump manages to delay his trials past the election and if all of Biden’s current deficits persist, both he and his party need to face the reality that he could lose to Trump, ending American democracy and leaving the world victim to despots. Does Biden want that to be his legacy?

Mort Kondracke
Mort Kondracke
Morton Kondracke is a retired Washington, DC, journalist (Chicago Sun-Times, The New Republic, McLaughlin Group, FoxNews Special Report, Roll Call, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal) now living on Bainbridge Island. He continues to write regularly for (besides PostAlley), mainly to advance the cause of political reform.


  1. This is a great summary and reflection on the D’s problem with Biden. Unfortunately, the recognition that Biden may be too old to run again should have been discussed within the circle of Biden’s confidants about this time last year. This is a typical problem for many businesses with a successful CEO refusing to think about a succession plan. There is none in place, and having one negotiated at the convention would be a media spectacle that would benefit the Rs more than the Ds.

  2. But did you see Klein’s list of likely/possible Democratic candidates? Not a lot of individuals who have broad-based appeal though his list would find enormous favor with Trump. Klein even offers Ocasio-Cortez as a potential!! which I think would be an obvious kiss of death for the Democrats in ‘24.

    The only combo on Klein’s list with real staying power is Newsom-Whitmer.

    No doubt others would have their own favorite combos. And that’s exactly the issue: the Democrats would exhaust themselves debating and find it impossible to create a really good campaign so late.

    There’s no really good solution here but one possible way would be for Harris to resign & make Newsom VP. (Yes, I’m dreaming.)

    Does adding Newsom = Too many white Christian males for Democratic Party? Probably so but it all depends on whether Dems really want to win or simply look good in defeat.

  3. I couldn’t believe AOC either. But I think Newsom=California=high taxes, over regulation and wokeness=defeat in November. Ds need a moderate who “gets it.” I like Gretchen Whitmer, who turned Michigan blue in 2022.

    • For others to see Ezra’s entire list:

      “There is a ton of talent in the Democratic Party right now: Gretchen Whitmer, Wes Moore, Jared Polis, Gavin Newsom, Raphael Warnock, Josh Shapiro, Cory Booker, Ro Khanna, Pete Buttigieg, Gina Raimondo, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Chris Murphy, Andy Beshear, J.B. Pritzker — the list goes on.“

      So who would you pair with Whitmer? (I assume you’re suggesting her as POTUS.)

  4. Yes, I would guess that this was a large part of the decision to run for a second term. The new younger candidate would have to be able to win.

    This seems to be a missing piece in the analysis. Biden has been a fairly successful president, but that NBC poll has people imagining the sociopath doing a better job accross the board. That is a different phenomenon, it’s about who controls perceptions and what is reality, and your candidate B is going to step into the same pit. That’s where you’ll find the headwaters of the end of democracy.

  5. Following Spiro Agnew’s resignation, Nixon appointed Gerald Ford veep with concurrence of Congress. Following Nixon’s resignation, Ford appointed Nelson Rockefeller. I assume this is how it works.


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