WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden turned 81 on Monday as concerns about his age continue to dominate his 2024 re-election campaign.
No big birthday party.
Instead, Biden marked the day by “pardoning” two turkeys, fulfilling a longstanding White House tradition before Thanksgiving.
“Today is my birthday,” Biden said as he opened the turkey ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. “I want you to know that it’s 60 years old,” he joked.
Already the oldest president in US history, Biden will be 86 when he completes a second term if re-elected.
Biden said National Turkey Federation President Steve Licken and Licken’s family sang “Happy Birthday” to him at the White House before the event.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden will celebrate his birthday this week with his family, attend Mass — the Bidens historically travel for Thanksgiving — and enjoy a Biden family favorite, coconut cake.
Biden has often made light of his octogenarian status — “I know I’m 198 years old,” the president joked in June — showing that it remains one of his biggest electoral responsibilities since the polls.
An October poll by Monmouth University found that 76% of voters believe Biden is too old to run for a second term, compared to 48% who said the same about 77-year-old Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
“Our perspective is that it’s not about age. It’s about the experience of the president,” Jean-Pierre said in response to age concerns. “I would put the president’s stamina, the president’s wisdom, his ability to get things done on behalf of the American people against anyone any day of the week.”
But an NBC News poll released Sunday found Biden trailing in a hypothetical rematch against Trump with 18- to 34-year-old voters, historically part of the Democratic base. 46% of young voters support Trump; Biden has 42% support.
The poll finds that Biden’s approval rating has dipped to 40%, an all-time low in the poll, and that Trump, despite his many impeachments and legal troubles, is leading nationally by a hypothetical 46%-44%.
Jean-Pierre acknowledged that some Americans have hard feelings 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,” he said. “I can tell you what our perspective is. All I can tell you is how we see things. We believe that experience is important for this president to get things done.”
Concerns about Biden’s age prompted a Democratic primary challenge from Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., who has advocated for a new generation of Democratic leadership in the White House.
Some Republican candidates openly questioned whether Biden would serve a second term if re-elected, warning voters that voting for Biden would mean the presidency for Vice President Kamala Harris.
Biden has regularly addressed questions about his age since announcing his re-election bid.
“I respect that they’re taking a hard look at it,” Biden said in April, referring to voters concerned about his age. “I’ll take a hard look at it too. I took a hard look at it before I decided to run, and I feel good.”
Reach Joey Garrison at X @joeygarrison.