Biden's age a target for critics, issue for voters as he kicks off campaign: ANALYSIS

He's been dogged by questions as he starts his 2024 run for reelection.

April 28, 2023, 5:20 PM

There was no big rally, no road trip, no major speech.

President Joe Biden executed what political experts called a "soft" campaign launch Tuesday, releasing a slick, 3-minute video to announce he's running for reelection.

With little else about the campaign for reporters to cover, week one of his 2024 bid has been dogged by a swirl of questions about his age (he's 80) and whether he's still fit for the job.

And he handed his critics plenty of material to chew on this week.

On Wednesday, in a rare news conference, Biden took a question about his age from ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Mary Bruce.

She asked for his response to a recent NBC News poll that showed 70% of Americans, including a majority of Democrats, think he shouldn't run again. Biden told her he feels good and he respects the fact that people will question his age.

"I respect them taking a hard look at it, I'd take a hard look at it as well. I took a hard look at it before I decided to run, and I feel good, I feel like excited about the prospects," he said.

He took a few other questions from the press and by most accounts, he handled himself well.

But later that day images emerged of what looked like a "cheat sheet" he was spotted holding -- notes apparently detailing in advance a question he would get from a newspaper reporter. In other words, it looked as if the White House somehow got a least one of the questions beforehand and wrote it down for him. It wasn't a good look for the White House or the press.

The reporter denied sharing any questions in advance and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said there were differences between what was on Biden's card and what was asked. She denied the White House gathers questions in advance.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden takes questions from children attending a "Take Your Child to Work Day" event at the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 27, 2023.
President Joe Biden takes questions from children attending a "Take Your Child to Work Day" event at the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 27, 2023.
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Perhaps it can be chalked up to thorough White House research. But some in the White House press corps see it as a protective staff carefully managing a president they rarely put in front of reporters in a formal setting.

Thursday was "Take Your Child to Work Day" at the White House. Photos of adorable children dressed as Secret Service agents standing next to the president went viral and stole the show. But they couldn't protect him from the onslaught of questions from the reporters' kids: Where do your grandkids live? What was the last country you visited?

Biden struggled to answer both questions. "I've met with 89 heads of state so far," the president said ... reminding the kids he's been to so many places it's hard to keep track.

"Ireland," one boy prompted him. "Yeah, you're right. Ireland," said Biden, who returned from Ireland just two weeks ago. "How'd you know that?"

We don't know if Biden was being playful or truly had a lapse in memory.

But his opponents are on the attack. Nikki Haley, who's launched a bid for the Republican nomination, told Fox News this week that anyone who votes for Biden is really voting for Kamala Harris as president. "The idea that he would make it until 86 years old is not something that I think is likely," Haley said.

White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates punched back at Haley, telling ABC News, "honestly, I forgot she was running."

PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with Tennessee State Representatives Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, and Gloria Johnson at the White House, on April 23, 2023, in Washington, D.C.
President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with Tennessee State Representatives Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, and Gloria Johnson at the White House, on April 23, 2023, in Washington, D.C.
Chris Kleponis/CNP via Polaris

And rather than publishing an exclusive interview with the president, or a wrap of his campaign launch, Friday morning Axios News published a story that said Biden keeps a modestly-paced schedule. He's rarely scheduled to hold events during the morning, evening, or weekend hours.

The White House pushed back on the Axios report on Twitter, calling it "false."

But this criticism is not new. Biden faced similar questions about his age during the 2020 race and managed to win with more votes than any candidate in the history of the United States.

And while polls say many Democrats think it's time for a new candidate, voters ABC News spoke with are mixed.

PHOTO: In this Nov. 4, 2020, file photo, Joe Biden, 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, gestures while arriving during an election night party in Wilmington, Delaware.
In this Nov. 4, 2020, file photo, Joe Biden, 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, gestures while arriving during an election night party in Wilmington, Delaware.
Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

ABC News "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz hit the road this week in the battleground state of Pennsylvania to ask voters about Biden's age for a segment she'll air on Sunday's program.

Nancy Gamble, 78, told Raddatz that as long as he's getting the job done, age shouldn't matter. So she's voting for him again.

"Why they shouldn't be worried? Because in life, anything can happen to anyone ... It can happen to young or old. So as long as he's getting the job done and doing what he's supposed to do, and in the right state of mind, that's what should be required."

Carolyn Sims-Naesmith, 72, agrees. "He's already proven himself. And generally, you go with what you know. Look, the other person who might be in contention with him is only three years younger. So what's the big deal?"

Some younger voters had a different take. Jason Rennix, a 19-year-old at Temple University says Biden is "way too old and very unfit to be president," Rennix said. "Like a lot of us don't see representation in our government. And I mean, that really goes to the presidency as well."

And Steve Davis, who is now retired, says it looks as if the job is taking its toll. Biden often tells voters to just "watch me" when he's asked about his age. So, Raddatz asked Davis, "What do you see?"

"Well, it's hard to keep up, Davis said. "It's a high-pressure job. It's hard. It's 24/7, you know, seven days a week."

But just as it was last time around, Democrats are already saying a rematch between Biden and Donald Trump is motivation enough to vote blue. "I'm not going to vote for Trump," Mark Heller, of Northampton told Raddatz. "It's that easy. I'm just not voting for Trump, so I'll vote for Biden."

ABC News' Meghan Mistry contributed to this report.

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