Despite risks, Trump invests big in attacks on Biden’s age

StarTribune | By Steve Peoples Associated Press


The focus on Biden’s age and mental competence continued this week on television sets across the country, backed by a wave of related digital ads asking voters whether Biden “is old and out of it.” A separate television ad produced by a pro-Trump super PAC openly suggests Biden has dementia. The message has been amplified daily by Trump’s conservative media allies, despite a lack of evidence.

Robert Blancato, who sits on the board of AARP and recently chaired the American Society on Aging, decries what he sees as blatant “ageist” attacks. Speaking for himself, not AARP, he said such attacks don’t belong in politics.

“Not everybody in the world can be a victim of racism, not everybody in the world can be a victim of sexism, but everybody has potential to be a victim of ageism,” he said, predicting that ads focusing on age would backfire on the Trump campaign. “When you get into ageism, I don’t know what base you’re appealing to.”

Yet while there is no known medical evidence that either candidate is declining, age and mental competence remain a key issue in 2020 for both candidates. Should he defeat Trump this fall, Biden, who turns 78 on Nov. 20, would be the oldest first-term president in U.S. history. Trump, who turned 74 on June 14, holds the current record. Both men are prone to gaffes and rambling when off script.

Statistics suggest it’s fair for voters to consider age when deciding which candidate should spend the next four years in one of the world’s most stressful jobs.

There is a 21% chance that an average man of Biden’s age would not survive his first term and a 15% chance that an average man of Trump’s would not survive his second, according to a study examining the longevity and health of the presidential candidates conducted by S. Jay Olshansky, a professor of public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The author says it is likely, however, that both Biden and Trump are “super agers” whose life expectancy would extend well beyond average.

While the study did not take into account their health histories, Olshansky suggests that Biden may be in better health than Trump, who Olshansky notes is obese, generally doesn’t eat well, doesn’t exercise regularly and whose father suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

He said neither campaign should use age to score political points.

“They’re weaponizing age in a terrible way,” Olshansky said of the Trump team. “If the tables were turned and Joe Biden were to weaponize age against Donald Trump, he would have a whole lot of material to work with.”

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