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President Joe Biden
Poll after poll shows voters pointing to Biden’s age as a top concern. Andrew Harnik/AP

The Democratic Strategy to Fight the Special Counsel’s Report

“We’ll put Biden’s mental capacity against Trump’s any day.”

Special counsel Robert Hur’s attack on President Joe Biden’s age and mental acuity has triggered a private panic among Democrats. But publicly, lawmakers and officials are coalescing around a defense of the aging incumbent: He’s not Donald Trump.

“[We’re] circling the wagons,” Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes told NOTUS. “The report is aggravating because it is Comey 2.0 in terms of outrageous political meddling where it shouldn’t happen. But this is a choice between two people. And we’ll put Biden’s mental capacity against Trump’s any day.”

Himes’ comments were echoed throughout Democratic circles on Friday. Biden, described in Hur’s report as an “elderly man with a poor memory,” hit on a central fear for the campaign, who see in poll after poll voters pointing to Biden’s age as a top concern.

Sen. John Fetterman, in a press call Friday morning, was explicit that Democrats should acknowledge that Biden and Trump were both indeed old, and then it’s time to pivot to policy differences.

“Trump is going on 78, and the president is 81 years old,” Fetterman said. “It’s the same older folks that are our choices, and that’s what this nation wants.”

“Yes, OK, we know President Biden is old. … It doesn’t sound like breaking news to me, but what sounds like news to me is number one, 15 million jobs being created, wages being up, inflation coming down,” he said.

A House Democratic aide made the argument that the election (despite polling indicating otherwise) was “not going to be an election that’s about age or competency.”

“Trump knows he has his own vulnerabilities, and I think it would be a poor choice on his part to pick this as his main fight,” he said. “If Republicans want to make this the issue of 2024, have at it.”

Rep. Jasmine Crockett pointed to a video of Trump misidentifying a picture of E. Jean Carroll as his then-wife and Fetterman pointed to Trump recently confusing Rep. Nancy Pelosi for Nikki Haley.

The double standard examples from Democrats don’t stop with Trump. Multiple representatives pointed to House Speaker Mike Johnson mistaking Israel and Iran on Meet the Press this week.

“Speaker Johnson must resign. I’m worried about his memory. How can he lead Congress?” California Rep. Eric Swalwell posted on X.

At the Democratic Party of Georgia’s annual gala on Thursday, the news broke, Rep. Nikema Williams, who serves as the state party chair, minimized the report.

“There’s a lot of time between now and the November election,” Williams said at the event. “And we have a story to tell that Democrats deliver every day for the people.”

A GOP aide predicted voters will remember the report’s description of Biden as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

“That’s the last way that we should be describing the leader of the free world.”

Fetterman predicted that not only would it not hurt Biden, it would help candidates down ballot.

“I see nothing but positivity because we’re looking at an agenda and we’re looking at a record that is positive,” he said.

Ben T.N. Mause and Katherine Swartz are NOTUS reporters and Allbritton Journalism Institute Fellows. Kate Nocera, NOTUS managing editor, contributed to this report.