There have been times over the past two years when Joe Biden has shown his age, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post – moments when he has seemed tired or has lost his place in a speech. But if anyone thought the 80-year-old doesn’t have the energy for the job, the president proved them wrong in his State of the Union address last week. It was a commanding performance.
The atmosphere in the House chamber was so unruly that it resembled a “raucous session of Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons”, said Robinson. Yet far from being put off, Biden seemed to feed off the energy, responding to Republican interruptions with playful ad libs and challenges. “As my football coach used to say,” he shot back at one heckler, “lots of luck in your senior year.” Biden looked like a man who was enjoying himself – and who had every intention of running for president again.
He’s running, all right, said Susan B. Glasser in The New Yorker, and judging by this speech, “he means to win”. It looks as if his strategy for 2024 is to co-opt Trump’s economic populism: he’s pitching his message squarely at the aggrieved voters of Middle America, but instead of offering them anger he’s selling himself as a pragmatic, reasonable president who “might actually do something about their problems”.He couldn’t have asked for “a better foil” than Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican congresswoman and conspiracy theorist, who leapt up and shouted “Liar!” during his speech. Biden played it “deftly”, agreed Jeffrey Blehar in National Review, using his “retail political skills” and 50 years’ worth of “memorised blue-collar shtick”. For once, the president seemed “in command of his brief”.
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Biden should quit while he’s ahead, said Michelle Goldberg in The New York Times. There’s no getting round the age thing. Democrats in focus groups talk about holding their breath every time he speaks; in a recent poll, 58% of blue-leaning independents and Democrats said they wanted a different candidate in 2024. With many polls showing Donald Trump’s popularity slipping, there’s a good chance that Biden could find himself up against a Republican such as Ron DeSantis, who will be 46 next year. “For Democrats, the visual contrast alone could be devastating.” Biden talked of wanting to be “a bridge to the next generation of Democrats”. To play that role, and protect his legacy, he should bow out of the 2024 race.
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