Nikki Haley has a campaign issue: Biden and Trump are way too old

Haley said Wednesday she didn't think it was likely that Biden, if reelected, would live to serve out a second term.

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Doubling down on her view that both President Biden and former President Donald Trump are too old to be given a second term, Republican candidate Nikki Haley said Wednesday that it was not implausible that Biden would die in office if reelected.

“He announced that he’s running again in 2024, and I think that we can all be very clear and say with a matter of fact that if you vote for Joe Biden, you really are counting on a President Harris, because the idea that he would make it until 86 years old is not something that I think is likely,” Haley said during an interview on Fox News.

When she announced her own presidential bid in February, Haley, 51, brought the issue of age front and center.

“In the America I see, the permanent politician will finally retire,” she said in a speech in Charleston, S.C., kicking off her campaign. “We’ll have term limits for Congress and mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over 75 years old.”

During the first few months of her campaign, Haley has often stressed the need to move beyond the “stale ideas and faded names of the past.”

“If you're tired of losing, put your trust in a new generation,” she said in a March speech at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference, “And if you want to win not just as a party, but as a country, then stand with me.”

While she has struggled to distinguish her candidacy in terms of policy (a Morning Consult tracking poll of Republican voters released this week shows her with 3% support compared to 58% for Trump), polls show that her assertions on the age of the two frontrunners are shared by a large swath of Americans.

Joe Biden
President Biden accepting cheers from members of a building trades union, in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Sixty-eight percent of U.S. adults surveyed in a Yahoo News/YouGov poll released in February said Biden, who will turn 82 shortly after the 2024 election, is "too old for another term as president." Forty-five percent said the same about Trump, who, if victorious in 2024, would turn 79 seven months into the term.

The belief Biden could die in office if reelected is also shared by other Republicans. Earlier this month, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has yet to announce his own 2024 plans, made a similar prediction by way of attacking what he sees as former President Donald Trump’s inherent weakness in a general election.

“A vote for Donald Trump is a vote for Kamala Harris,” Christie said at an April event in New Hampshire.

Yet predicting when someone might die or assessing their mental competency in the absence of medical data is folly, experts say.

“I would never diagnose anybody that I see on TV, that would be a mistake,” Dr. Arthur Kramer, director of the Center for Cognitive and Brain Health and professor of psychology at Northeastern University, told Yahoo News. “It’s hard to tell how well Biden functions, but he seems to function pretty well to me.”

And while both Trump and Biden are already older than the average U.S. male life expectancy of 74.5 years, that figure includes all early deaths due to accidents, disease and other causes.

Haley’s focus on age also comes at a time when Americans are working later into life. According to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of U.S. workers 75 years of age and older who will remain in the labor force is expected to rise from 8.9% in 2020 to 11.7% in 2030. Moreover, advanced age is far from a guarantee of diminished performance.

“There are 90-year-olds who can do things that 60-year-olds can’t,” Dr. Claudia Kawas, a professor of clinical neurology at the University of California, Irvine, told Yahoo News. “There are 60-year-olds who have dementia. I’ve diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease in 39-year-olds.”