WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden turned 81 on Monday as concerns about his age continue to dominate his 2024 re-election campaign.
There wasn’t a big birthday party.
Instead, Biden marked the day when he “pardoned” two turkeys, carrying out the long-standing White House tradition ahead of Thanksgiving.
“It’s my birthday today,” Biden said, kicking off the turkey ceremony at the southern White House. “I just want you to know, turning 60 is hard,” he joked.
Already the oldest president in US history, Biden would be 86 when he completes a second term if re-elected.
Biden said Steve Lykken, chairman of the National Turkey Federation, and Lykken’s family sang “Happy Birthday” to him inside the White House before the event.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden will celebrate his birthday this week with his family in Nantucket, Mass. — where the Bidens historically travel for Thanksgiving — and enjoy some coconut cake, a Biden family favorite.
Biden has often drawn attention to his octogenarian status — “I know I’m 198 years old,” the president joked in June — as poll after poll shows it remains one of his biggest campaign commitments.
A Monmouth University poll in October found that 76% of voters believe Biden is too old to effectively serve a second term, compared with 48% who said the same about Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who is 77.
“Our perspective is that it’s not about age. It’s about the president’s experience,” Jean-Pierre said, responding to age concerns. “I would put the president’s stamina, the president’s wisdom, ability to get things done on behalf of the American people up against anybody on any day of the week.”
But an NBC News poll released Sunday showed Biden trailing in a hypothetical rematch against Trump with voters ages 18 to 34, a group historically part of the Democratic base. Trump is supported by 46% of young voters; Biden is supported by 42 percent.
The survey found that Biden’s approval rating has fallen to 40%, a record low for the poll, and that Trump, despite his many accusations and legal troubles, is leading nationally in a hypothetical matchup of 46%-44%.
Jean-Pierre acknowledged that some Americans have hardened views about Biden.
“We’re not going to change the minds of Americans. I understand that. Americans are going to feel how they feel, and we’re going to respect that,” she said. “What I can tell you is what our perspective is. What I can tell you is how we see things. And we think that this president has experience in getting things done is important.”
Concerns about Biden’s age have prompted a Democratic primary challenge from Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., who has argued for a new generation of Democratic leadership in the White House.
Some Republican candidates have openly questioned whether Biden will complete a second term if re-elected, warning voters that a vote for Biden is a vote for Vice President Kamala Harris for president.
Biden has routinely addressed questions about his age since announcing his re-election bid.
“I respect that they’re looking at it carefully,” Biden said in April, referring to voters who worry about his age. “I would look into it, too. I looked into it before I decided to run, and I feel good.”
Reach Joey Garrison at X @joeygarrison.