The Joe Biden Whispering Campaign
Author: Greg Valliere
March 5, 2020
A SOURCE OF CONCERN: Joe Biden’s stunning ascent in the past week seemingly has him on a path to the Democrats’ nomination — but there’s a serious issue that must be confronted: his mental acuity.
WE’VE BEEN RELUCTANT TO WRITE ABOUT THIS, because it’s a delicate issue, but we increasingly get questions as a whispering campaign intensifies, and Republicans are taking their cues from Donald Trump, who has bluntly questioned Biden’s mental fitness. We had thought this issue would be just below the surface in the campaign, but now it’s about to get an airing and will be very much in the limelight.
WE’VE MET BIDEN FREQUENTLY, starting 40 years ago, when he was a dynamic young Senator, outgoing and gregarious. But we’ve seen a different Biden in recent debates. He’s had a lifelong affliction with stuttering, no crime in that, but he clearly has slowed down and, ominously, Biden frequently struggles to find right the words.
CAREFUL SCRUTINY: Biden will have only one or two challengers in the next debate, scheduled for March 15 in Arizona, so his performance will be closely scrutinized. To be blunt, a Biden stumble is about the best hope left for the Bernie Sanders campaign (although Sanders will make trade treaties a major issue heading into next Tuesday’s primary in Michigan, where he won four years ago).
THE HEALTH OF CANDIDATES IS A MAJOR WILD CARD because most of them are so old. Sanders, 78, suffered a heart attack last fall. Trump, 73, is obese and loathes exercise. But Biden, 77, is in a different category, as incidents of confusion raise concerns. It’s one thing to forget someone’s name; it’s another thing to forget what city you’re in or what office you’re running for.
WE’VE TALKED WITH MANY DEMOCRATS in this town who share concerns about Biden’s health; “he’s not the same Joe,” they say, often pointing to the vacant look in his eyes. For now, they’re desperate to avoid an election debacle with a socialist heading the ticket. The party’s establishment is willing to take a risk on Biden, but they’re nervous about the March 15 debate.
WE’RE OBVIOUSLY NOT QUALIFIED TO ASSESS BIDEN MEDICALLY, but we do know that Donald Trump, a ruthless campaigner, has found Biden’s weak point, and the president has fodder — a hit job on Biden in this morning’s New York Post. This issue is out of the closet.
HEALTH ISSUES LIKE THIS HAVE HAPPENED BEFORE, most recently in 1988, in Ronald Reagan’s last full year as president, when he began to show signs of the dementia that eventually killed him. It’s a horrible disease — we’ve seen it up close — that allows its victims to have good days amid the gradual decline. Biden could sail through the campaign, or he could have increasingly foggy days.
FOR NOW, WE’LL JUST CONCLUDE that this is about to become an issue; Fox isn’t shy about raising it, and neither is Trump. Along with the coronavirus, Biden’s mental health is the great wild card in the upcoming campaign, a topic that has to be addressed.
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