James Clyburn says Biden's age is a 'legitimate concern'

May 9, 2023
Matthew Boose

The man who made Joe Biden the Democratic party's nominee in 2020 says the 80-year-old president's age is a "legitimate concern," but he's still supporting his re-election bid. 

South Carolina Democrat James Clyburn admitted to Vanity Fair that Biden has "lost a step."

"It’s a legitimate concern. I don’t hit my 5-iron as far as I used to—but I can still play 36 holes of golf a day," he said.

Biden ally voices "concern"

Clyburn's candid comments reflect a calculation among Democrats that they can no longer afford to ignore the elephant in the room. But they're sure doing everything they can to make the elephant look small.

"You learn how to make certain adjustments,” Clyburn added. “I think Joe Biden knows how to operate within himself. And I would much rather have an 82-year-old Joe Biden as president than a 42-year-old Donald Trump.”

Biden had widely been dismissed three years ago after stumbling early on in the primary. Clyburn's endorsement before the South Carolina primary gave Biden a critical boost that ultimately solidified the establishment behind him.

This time, the Democratic primary is unabashedly a coronation, with no plans for the messiness of debates and no serious rivals lining up from within the party establishment -- yet.

Coronation underway?

The message is roughly the same as three years ago, when Democrats portrayed Biden as a steadier hand than Donald Trump. Except this time Biden is an unpopular incumbent with an economy on the brink, and an age question that isn't going away.

A brutal poll from ABC News/Washington Post found that a mere 32 percent of voters think Biden has the "mental sharpness" to do his job, a stark decline from 51 percent who said the same three years ago.

Just 37 percent of Democrats approve of Biden's job performance, a remarkable testament to the vast enthusiasm gap between party apparatchiks and Democratic voters.

Biden is trailing President Trump by seven points in a general election matchup. Voters are also significantly more confident in Trump's acuity, with just 44 percent saying Trump, 76, is too old for the job.

While Biden has acknowledged that his age is a concern, he is putting a time-tested spin on the issue by tying his age with wisdom. For the time being, it doesn't appear voters find the message very convincing,

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