philadelphia / washington — U.S. President Joe Biden describes next year’s election as a battle for “the soul” of his nation. His campaign has centered on that, and assertions that he has improved Americans’ lives through his stands on the economy, access to abortion, and threats to democracy.
In recent months, he has crisscrossed the nation to talk up legislation that has created jobs, to promote his efforts to protect abortion rights and improve gun safety, and to speak — often passionately — about his work to protect constitutional rule.
He has approached so-called kitchen table issues in metaphorically apt settings that let him communicate several messages at once, such as when he told first responders Monday in Philadelphia — the birthplace of the U.S. Constitution — that firefighters once saved his house from burning down.
Or when he visited the district of one of his loudest Republican detractors in November to tout his work in bringing them climate-friendly jobs.
“The historic investments we’re celebrating today is in Congressman [Lauren] Boebert’s district,” Biden said. “She’s one of the leaders of this extreme MAGA [Make America Great Again] movement. She, along with every single Republican colleague, voted against the law that made these investments in jobs possible.”
Or, at an event in November touting job growth, when he flexed his credentials as a grandparent to a rural Minnesota mother who tried to silence a crying baby, telling her, “It’s OK. Kids are allowed to do that with me.”
From his perch at the White House, Biden seems confident about his chances of defeating his most likely challenger, former President Donald Trump.
When a reporter asked him in early December if he thought Trump could be beaten by any Democrat other than him, Biden paused, smiled and said, “Probably 50 of them. … I’m not the only one who can defeat him, but I will defeat him.”
But for a lot of U.S. voters, this is a numbers issue. Pollsters say most worry about the economy, while many also point to a number the Biden administration can’t change: his advanced age.
By election night, Biden — who at 81 is about four years older than Trump — will be five years senior to the oldest man to ever occupy the office — Ronald Reagan.
Democratic pollsters say these concerns are weighing Biden down, leaving Trump currently ahead in critical swing states.
“Voters are not comfortable with the age of either of our candidates,” Evan Roth Smith, head pollster for Blueprint, a public opinion research initiative, told VOA. “I think the age factor is part of the wider dissatisfaction with, ‘Oh no. This again? We’re doing this again, Trump versus Biden?'”
Trump has campaigned on the sidelines of his many court appearances facing a range of charges.
“He’s playing to — as strange as it sounds — a sense of nostalgia, that when Donald Trump was president — and this is what he would say — prices were lower, the Middle East wasn’t at war, Ukraine wasn’t being invaded by Russia, China was was less muscular, and so on and so forth,” Smith said.
Warns of Trump’s vitriol
Biden also has recently worked a bit more Trump vitriol into his campaign, recently hammering on Trump’s words that he will be a “dictator” for a day if he is re-elected.
“I’m going to follow the Hatch Act and avoid commenting on the 2024 election,” deputy White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said in response to VOA’s question about whether the administration sees Trump’s comments as a national security threat.
But he added, “And I want to say: It is wrong to suspend the Constitution and abuse federal power to persecute critics and trample the First Amendment. It is wrong to override the will of the voters, as upheld by over 80 federal judges and the Trump administration’s top election security official. It is wrong to engage in violent rhetoric and spread dangerous conspiracy theories that have cost brave police officers their lives.”
Trump made the comment December 5 during an interview with a popular conservative media personality, who asked, “You are promising America tonight you would never abuse power as retribution against anybody?”
“Except for Day One,” Trump replied.
He then elaborated, “I want to close the border, and I want to drill, drill, drill.”
This strong contrast is one that both men — and those trying to supplant Trump for the Republican nomination — are attempting to highlight before November.
But one thing is clear if either man wins in 2024: After four years with each, American voters know exactly what kind of president they’re choosing.