Happy birthday, Mr. President.
Gaffe-prone President Biden turns 81 Monday — and finds himself with virtually nothing to celebrate as key Democrats continue to fret over his advanced age and a new poll shows him losing support with younger voters.
Some of his top allies have tried to convince major donors and other Democrats that like it or not, Biden is the party’s best bet to take on a GOP rival next year, according to an eyebrow-raising Washington Post exposé published Sunday.
But a new NBC News poll suggested that even if Biden remains at the top of the Dem ticket, likely Republican nominee Donald Trump would beat him — the first time the 77-year-old ex-president surpassed his successor in a national general-election survey from the network.
“The bad news is that everybody is wetting the bed inside of Biden world,” one fundraiser told The Washington Post.
“It’s really an unhappy confluence of Biden world donors’ cocktail party friends saying ‘Can’t you get him not to run,’ which is stupid and absurd if you know Joe Biden.”
Already the oldest president in United States history, Biden would be 86 years old by the conclusion of a second hypothetical term.
At a private power conference in late September hosted by Ari Emanuel, brother of Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel, the Democratic angst was on full display — with one attendee worrying aloud about Biden being in serious jeopardy of losing the election and asking about the Democrats’ backup plan, the newspaper said.
Former Biden chief of staff and staunch ally Ron Klain quickly fired back, underscoring that there was no Plan B and that the incumbent was a formidable nominee, according to the report.
Attendees were reportedly splintered over Klain’s remarks, with some miffed by the lack of a backup plan and others grateful for his defense of Biden.
Nearly six weeks later, Biden’s campaign officials trekked to Chicago for a private event where some attendees voiced frustrations that former President Barack Obama hadn’t done more to elevate his former veep.
“The takeaway of the weekend was not, ‘Hey team, we’ve got to get the band back together to help Biden out,’ ” one attendee told WaPo.
“If this a supposedly existential threat and democracy is so challenged, then why aren’t you being more overt about it?”
Not all the Democratic unease about Biden has been relegated to backstage grumbling.
Democratic luminary David Axelrod, who helped pioneer Obama’s breakthrough 2008 presidential victory, has rankled Biden world with his public misgivings, though he later clarified he was not calling on Biden to drop out of the running.
“I think he has a 50-50 shot here, but no better than that, maybe a little worse,” Axelrod said to the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd in a Saturday column.
“He thinks he can cheat nature here and it’s really risky. They’ve got a real problem if they’re counting on Trump to win it for them. I remember Hillary doing that, too.”
Axelrod’s remarks came against the backdrop of a spate of polling showing Trump ahead of Biden in five of six battleground states.
The NBC poll, also out Sunday, had Trump edging out a slim lead over Biden — 46% to 44% — and strikingly eclipsing him among younger voters.
Among younger voters ages 18 to 34, Trump emerged on top 46% to 42% over Biden — a group that the president won by around 26 points in the 2020 election.
NBC was not alone in pegging Biden down against Trump in a 2024 matchup, and the former president was up 1.6 percentage points over the incumbent in the latest RealClearPolitics aggregate of polling.
Biden’s team has downplayed the polls, arguing they don’t capture the true picture as there is still a long way to go before the election next November.
Trump has 91 criminal counts pending against him and is set to head to trial in March in the federal case in Washington DC charging him with trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Earlier this month, Biden allies took a big victory lap following Democratic wins in Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, and elsewhere in the off-year 2023 elections.
They contended that those elections proved critics in the party had been unnecessarily hyperventilating and too caught up on current polls for an election just shy of a year away.
“Time and again, Biden beats expectations. Happened in 2020, happened in 2022, happened on Tuesday night,” communications director Michael Tyler told reporters after the off-year victories.
“You see days, weeks, months of breathless predictions about how terrible things are gonna be for Joe Biden followed by an election day with historic victories,” he went on.
Still, victories in 2022 and 2023 have failed to completely subdue Democratic anxiety about Biden’s chances in the general election.
The Post reached out to the Biden campaign for comment.
Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) launched a long shot primary challenge against Biden last month, making hay about the incumbent’s viability.
But Biden has a strong lead over both him and his other major primary opponent, author Marianne Williamson.
While there aren’t any heavyweight Democrats challenging Biden for the nod, some have cultivated presidential buzz — including California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has embarked on tours of red states and ad blitz to champion progressive causes in conservative strongholds.
He is set to square off with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in a debate later this month, with his team recently cutting an ad knocking the aspiring 2024 Republican presidential nominee on abortion.
Newsom has endorsed Biden and insisted he won’t vie for the presidency in 2024.