Few need convincing of the presidency’s importance. Democrats re-learned that lesson in the 2016 presidential election. There are three Trump-nominated US Supreme Court justices and an insurrection in the myriad of consequences. For many, the 2024 election is a decision about democracy vs. autocracy, the fate of NATO and Ukraine, and the impact on climate change and women’s rights, among others
An issue for voters is age. If re-elected, Joe Biden will be 82 at his inauguration. Should he finish his second term, he will be 86 years old. The uncertainties that come with aging are undeniable facts of life.
What happens if Joe Biden is incapacitated, significantly diminished, or dies prior to the 2024 election, pre-inaugural, or during his second term? The prior oldest president was Ronald Reagan. He completed his second term when he was almost 78 years old. It’s believed that in his last presidential year, Reagan had early signs of Alzheimer’s. Thereafter, a once vital Reagan became increasingly diminished.
While the president frequently opines that the race is not between him and the Almighty, some will nonetheless ask whether Biden will run against Donald Trump. Will a soon-to-be 78-year-old Trump be incapacitated, significantly impaired, or die prior to the election? If convicted in the federal January 6th or Georgia insurrection indictments, could Trump be removed from enough state ballots that Republicans will pragmatically replace him as their party’s standard bearer?
While voters infrequently consider the vice-presidential nominee in casting their presidential vote, 2024 differs. For especially Independent voters, who comprise almost 49% of the electorate, Kamala Harris could be a decisive factor in assessing Biden’s age. The Los Angeles Times reports that among registered voters, 41% approve of her performance, while 53% disapprove of it.
While Biden has done an admirable job, the question is re-electability. Over 50% of Americans disapprove of his stewardship. He is losing support among younger, Hispanic, and African American voters. How many of the Democratic base will stay home?
According to electoral reporting, states likely to be the most contested are Pennsylvania (19 votes), Georgia (16 votes), Michigan (15), Arizona (11 votes) and Wisconsin (10 votes). Of these states, attractive presidential and vice presidential candidates who could help win their state’s electoral votes are Wisconsin’s Amy Klobuchar and Arizona’s Mark Kelly. Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro and Georgia Senators Warnock and Ossoff are in their first terms.
Wisconsin Senator Amy Klobuchar has a national approval rating of 58% and is among the five most popular of all US Senators. She was elected to the Senate in 2006 with 58% of the vote. In 2012, she was reelected with a 65% majority. In 2018, she was elected to her third term with a 24-point margin. If selected as the Democratic presidential nominee, she should easily carry Wisconsin.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Witmer, a former prosecutor and state legislator, won the governorship in 2018 by almost 10% and was reelected in 2022 by nearly 11%. Like Klobuchar, Witmer should handily capture Michigan’s 15 electoral votes.
A former Navy pilot, Arizona Senator Mark Kelly flew 30 combat missions. As an astronaut, he served on four NASA missions – one as crew, one as the pilot, and two as the commander. Kelly is married to former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was tragically disabled after being shot by a would-be assassin. Kelly resigned from NASA and played a prominent role in his wife’s remarkable recovery.
In 2020, in battleground Arizona, Kelly was elected to the Senate with 51% of the vote in a special election. In 2022, Kelly was reelected with an almost 6% margin. Gabby Giffords, who campaigns with her husband, resonates with gun regulation advocates and inspires those who face life’s challenges.
Biden concedes that there are other Democrats who could beat Trump. Polling needs to be undertaken on a primary match-up between Biden vs. Kelly and Biden vs. Klobuchar, among others, plus a general election match-up between Kelly vs. Trump and Klobuchar vs. Trump, among others. In current Biden-Trump polling, Biden is running a heart-stopping even against a four-time indicted Trump.
With consequential issues hanging in the balance, polling would help reflect Democrats’ preference for their party’s nominee and the nation’s presidential attitudes. I’ve followed Biden’s career for over five decades. He is a decent man. I believe that if such polling highlighted a candidate other than himself, Joe Biden might well step aside if there was a surer path to defeating a perceived existential threat to democracy and world order.
Malcolm Lazin is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney. He is the recipient of the U.S. Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award, the Department of Justice’s highest honor. He served as the Chair, Pennsylvania Crime Commission and was the Republican candidate for District Attorney of Philadelphia. In addition to his legal career, Lazin has been a waterfront developer and a nonprofit activist, earning numerous regional, state, and national awards.