Even if Biden’s age problem wasn’t so obvious, it would still count against him for a simple reason, which I call “Hayward’s Unified Field Theory of Successful Democratic Nominees.” Since World War II Democrats generally win the White House with a younger nominee, usually in his 40s, with a clear generation-changing message about the future: think John F. Kennedy (“New Frontier!”), Bill Clinton (who openly claimed to be a “New Democrat”—”End welfare as we know it!”—deliberately breaking with the party’s stodgy pro-welfare, pro-criminal past), and Barack Obama (“hope and change!”). Even Jimmy Carter, though in his 50s when elected in 1976, fits this screen in a number of ways.
Conversely, when Democrats nominate an establishment figure who is more a throwback to their New Deal/Great Society past, they usually lose. Think Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, John Kerry, and, above all, Hillary Clinton. (Al Gore in 2000 could be thought an outlier, but he was already looking stale and past his sell-by date in 2000.) The Democratic voting base never seems to care much about “experience” and a long record in office.
Where does Biden fit on this scheme? What is his core message, aside from “I’m not Donald Trump”? That might be enough to win, but probably not. Saying “look at my record,” as Biden does every other sentence, induces snores among Democrats. That’s one of many reasons why Biden is under such intense pressure to pick not just any woman as a running mate, but a woman of color to excite the Democratic base. (Update: The black radio host who prompted Biden to say “you ain’t black” if you’re not voting for me, the wonderfully named “Charlamagne tha God”—move over Bubba the Love Sponge—says that if Biden picks Amy Klobuchar as his running mate it will lead to “voter depression.”)
Biden’s very age is backward-looking, which is in tension with one notable aspect of his campaign. Normally when someone locks up the nomination, they start moving to the political center, to capture swing voters and moderates. But Biden is moving further to the progressive left since he wrapped up the nomination. On the one hand, he’s all in for spending trillions on new programs like the Green Nude Eel, promising to hand over the nation’s checkbook to Nancy Pelosi if he wins, and pushing through the largest tax increase in American history. On the other hand, he’s reactionary in some ways (as much of liberalism is today), such as indicating over this weekend that he will squash charter schools if he is elected, which is a pure sop to the teachers union, which hates any and all forms of educational competition or reform.
The Trump campaign should be able to exploit these inherent difficulties in the Biden campaign as we head into the fall, which is why the betting markets have Trump the favorite even as many polls show Biden with large general lead. Even recalling the relatively popular Obama years represents turning the page back, not turning to a new page.
Another wild card: It looks like some businesses aren’t going to sit on the sidelines of Biden’s attacks. Good for Amazon here: