President Joe Biden turns 81 as concerns about his age hang over 2024 election

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WASHINGTON − President Joe Biden turned 81 on Monday as concerns about his age continue to dominate his 2024 reelection campaign.

There wasn't a big birthday bash.

Instead, Biden marked the day "pardoning" two turkeys, carrying out the longtime White House tradition ahead of Thanksgiving.

"It's my birthday today," Biden said, kicking off the turkey ceremony on the White House South Lawn. "I just want you to know, it's difficult turning 60," he joked.

Biden, already the oldest president in U.S. history, would be 86 when he completed a second term if reelected.

Biden said Steve Lykken, chairman of the National Turkey Federation, and Lykken's family sang "Happy Birthday" to him inside the White House before the event.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden will celebrate his birthday this week with his family in Nantucket, Mass. − where the Bidens historically travel for Thanksgiving − and enjoy some coconut cake, a Biden family favorite.

President Joe Biden speaks before pardoning the national Thanksgiving turkeys, Liberty and Bell, at a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023.
President Joe Biden speaks before pardoning the national Thanksgiving turkeys, Liberty and Bell, at a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023.

Biden has often made light of his octogenarian status − "I know I'm 198 years old," the president joked in June − as poll after poll shows it remains one of his biggest election liabilities.

A poll by Monmouth University in October found 76% of voters believe Biden is too old to effectively serve a second term, compared with 48% who said the same about Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who is 77.

"Our perspective is that it's not about age. It's about the president's experience," Jean-Pierre said, responding to age concerns. "I would put the president's stamina, the president's wisdom, ability to get things done on behalf of the American people up against anyone of any day of the week."

But an NBC News poll released Sunday found Biden is trailing in a hypothetical rematch against Trump with voters ages 18 to 34, a group that is historically part of the Democratic base. Trump is backed by 46% of young voters,; Biden is supported by 42%.

The poll found that Biden's approval rating has dropped to 40%, an all-time low for the poll, and that Trump, despite his multiple indictments and legal troubles, leads nationally in a hypothetical matchup 46%-44%.

Jean-Pierre acknowledged that some Americans have hardened views about Biden.

"We're not going to change the minds of Americans. I get that. Americans are going to feel how they feel, and we're going to respect that," she said. "What I can tell you is what our perspective is. What I can tell you is how we see things. And we believe this president having experience to get things done is important."

Concerns about Biden's age has prompted a Democratic primary challenge from Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., who has argued for a new generation of Democratic leadership in the White House.

Some Republican candidates have openly questioned whether Biden will finish a second term if he's reelected, warning voters that a vote for Biden is a vote for Vice President Kamala Harris as president.

Biden has addressed questions about his age routinely since announcing his reelection bid.

"I respect them taking a hard look at it," Biden said in April, referring to voters who worry about his age. "I'd take a hard look at it as well. I took a hard look at it before I decided to run, and I feel good."

Reach Joey Garrison on X @joeygarrison.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Joe Biden's birthday overshadowed by age concerns in 2024 election