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Trump miscues have Dems seeking to turn tables on GOP over age, mental fitness


President Biden and his allies are looking to turn the tables on former President Trump by highlighting his mental fitness for office after a high-profile verbal slip-up at a campaign rally.

Democrats, including Biden, shared a clip far and wide of Trump over the weekend repeatedly confusing former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) with Nikki Haley, his GOP rival and the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, while speaking about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Biden, 81, has repeatedly come under criticism related to his age, verbal stumbles and general mental fitness. Democrats appeared to relish the opportunity to put Trump, 77, under a similar spotlight over the Pelosi-Haley flub-up.

“A deeply confused Trump confuses Nancy Pelosi and Nikki Haley multiple times,” the Biden campaign’s rapid response team posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Can you imagine the field day @FoxNews and Trump would have had if ⁦@JoeBiden⁩ had gone on, at length, confusing Gavin Newsom with Kevin McCarthy?!??” former senior Obama White House adviser David Axelrod wrote on X.

Former Biden White House press secretary Jen Psaki called it “significant” that Haley herself questioned Trump’s mental fitness after the incident.

And Biden himself piled on, sharing a compilation of Trump’s latest verbal slip, as well previous confusing statements, such as a past claim that voter ID is required to buy a loaf of bread, as well as Trump incorrectly saying he ran against former President Obama.

Republicans have for years questioned Biden’s mental sharpness and ability to do the job, highlighting both minor flubs and more significant mix-ups. Trump routinely mocks Biden at rallies, suggesting the president doesn’t know where to exit the stage at events.

Democrats have at times complained about a double standard in coverage of Biden, Trump and their respective ages and readiness for office. Trump, they note, is only four years younger than Biden and has a history of slip-ups.

At the same time, the attacks on Trump carry significant risks for Democrats.

It’s clear Biden’s age is an issue for voters, and by bringing the attack to Trump, they provide an opportunity for Republicans to offer Biden the same treatment the next time he has a verbal miscue or stumbles on stage.

“In a perfect world, it will nullify the age arguments against Biden, but if Democrats call attention to Trump‘s gaffes, they open the door for the same scrutiny of Biden,” said Basil Smikle, a Democratic strategist and director of the public policy program at Hunter College.

Trump has repeatedly pushed back on questions about his mental fitness. He has frequently bragged about passing a cognitive exam while president meant to test patients for signs of dementia, and he has insisted his criticisms of Biden are based on competence, not age.

“I actually feel better now than I did 30 years ago,” Trump said during a New Hampshire rally last week, before the Haley-Pelosi mix-up. “Tell me, is that crazy? I feel better now, and I think cognitively I’m better than I was 20 years ago.”

Despite the small difference in age, polling has consistently shown voters are more concerned about Biden’s ability to serve as president for another four years.

An ABC News poll conducted earlier this month found 69 percent of respondents did not think Biden has the mental sharpness to be president.

A Wall Street Journal poll published last fall found 73 percent of Americans said the phrase “too old to run for president” described Biden at least “somewhat well,” compared to 47 percent who felt the same of Trump. 

The president and his aides have sought to turn the argument on its head, arguing that with Biden’s age comes more wisdom in the job. Biden has also sought to disarm attacks about his age with humor, quipping to donors and supporters about his decades in political life.

“Democrats may have an advantage because Biden‘s age clearly hasn’t impacted his policymaking, and one could argue Trump’s mental state underscores the kind of policy instability we saw during his presidency,” Smikle told The Hill.

Trump increasingly looks like he’ll be the GOP nominee for president. He won the Iowa caucuses in a runaway and is favored to win the New Hampshire primary Tuesday.

Biden opened the year with two high-profile speeches that both went after Trump aggressively. But neither were focused on the former president’s age or mental fitness, and the president’s campaign has signaled that such issues are not its central focus as the election cycle ramps up.

Quentin Fulks, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, was asked Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” about Trump’s confusion. Rather than go on the attack, Fulks sought to pivot to the issues central to Biden’s reelection bid.

“When it comes to the president’s age, we have a simple formula for that, and that’s results. You know, age equals wisdom, equals results and experience. And President Biden, because of his age, has come to the table and brought people together from both sides of the aisle to deliver results for the American people,” Fulks said.

“This election is not going to be about age,” he added. “This election is about freedom and democracy, and the fact that Democrats under President Biden’s leadership believe that people deserve more freedom, not less, and Republicans want to roll that back and rip it away.”

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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