The age and health of both Biden and President Donald Trump, less than four years younger than Biden, were glimpsed throughout a career that was decided by a younger and more diverse electorate and at a time when the nation did not faces a shortage of major problems.
Outside the gate, Biden will be eager to show he has the stamina to serve.
“It is crucial that he and his staff get in the position early in his presidency where he can express what he wants with a clarity that has not always been his strength,” said Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University who has Advised legislators of both parties. “You have to gain credibility with the American people that you are physically and mentally ready for the job.”
Heartwarming photos of Joe Biden through the years
Throughout the campaign, the 74-year-old Trump did not miss an opportunity to highlight Biden’s mistakes and argue that the Democrat lacked the mental sharpness to lead the nation. Both critics and some Biden supporters worried that he was sending the wrong message about his resistance by keeping a relatively light public schedule as Trump rampaged through battle states. Biden attributed his light schedule to being cautious during the coronavirus pandemic.
Some of Biden’s rivals in the Democratic primary also defended age, while skipping Trump’s vitriol, by raising the question of whether someone from the generation of Biden and Trump was the right person to lead a nation facing trouble. like climate change and racial inequality.
Brian Ott, a Missouri State University communications professor who studies presidential rhetoric, said Biden was not impressive as an activist, but he has proven much more effective with his public comments since Election Day.
Ott said Biden’s victory speech was moving and his empathy was shown in a virtual discussion he had earlier this week with front-line healthcare workers. The president-elect’s experience, a combination of age and nearly 50 years in politics, is more clearly conveyed through the prism of government than through the chaos of the campaign, he said.
“The rhetoric of governing, unlike the rhetoric of campaigning, is collaborative rather than contradictory,” Ott said.
Biden’s relatively old age also places greater importance on the quality of his staff, Baker said. His election of Senator Kamala Harris, nearly 20 years his junior, as his running mate effectively recognized his age issue. Biden has described himself as a transitional president, but has not ruled out running for a second term.
“She has done a good job of letting it be known from day one that she is ready,” Baker said of Harris. “She has to be in the images coming out of the White House. They also need, in terms of their messages, to highlight her inclusion in whatever important issue or debate is going on in the White House.”
Biden, in an interview with CNN in September, promised to be “totally transparent” about all facets of his health if elected, but has not said how he will do it.
The campaign has argued that Biden is not your average septuagenarian.
His physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, in a medical report released by the campaign in December, described Biden as “healthy, vigorous … capable of successfully executing the duties of the Presidency, including those as Executive Director, Head of State and Commander in Chief “.
O’Connor reported that Biden exercises five days a week. The president-elect told his supporters that during the pandemic he has relied on workouts at home that include a Peloton bicycle, treadmill and weights.
In 1988, Biden suffered two life-threatening brain aneurysms, an experience he wrote in his memoirs made him the “kind of man I want to be.” O’Connor also noted in his report that Biden has an irregular heartbeat, but has not required any medication or other treatment. His gallbladder was also removed in 2003.
A September article by a group of researchers in the Journal on Active Aging concluded that both Biden and Trump are “super-agers” and are likely to outlive their American contemporaries and maintain their health beyond the end of the next presidential term.
Some of Biden’s predecessors in the White House left traces on the pros and cons of demonstrating presidential vigor, said Edward Frantz, a presidential historian at the University of Indianapolis.
Reagan made sure the public saw him chopping wood and riding horses. Trump, after being diagnosed with the coronavirus, quickly returned to a busy campaign schedule: He held dozens of packed rallies in battle states in the final weeks of the campaign. Those events circumvented the coronavirus guidelines on social distancing, wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings.
In 1841, 68-year-old William Harrison tried to show his vigor by delivering a long opening speech without a coat or hat. Weeks later, Harrison, then the oldest president-elect in American history, developed a cold that turned into pneumonia that would kill him just a month after his presidency. It is disputed whether Harrison’s illness was related to his keynote address.