President Joe Biden said he might not be running for a second term if former President Donald Trump were not seeking to return to the White House, arguing Trump poses a grave threat to American democracy.
“If Trump wasn’t running, I’m not sure I’d be running,” Biden, 81, told donors Tuesday at a campaign fundraiser in Massachusetts. “But we cannot let him win for the sake of our country.”
Biden has faced persistent voter doubts about his decision to seek four more years in office due to his age. The president has sought to parry those concerns by arguing Trump would dismantle the U.S.’s democratic institutions, roll back laws that allow more people to access health care and push more restrictions on abortion rights.
Biden has repeatedly said Trump’s reaction to the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, encouraged him to seek the presidency in 2020, citing his predecessor’s remarks after a counter-protester was killed that there were “very fine people” on both sides of the demonstrations.
Biden, who celebrated a birthday last month, is already the oldest president in U.S. history. Allies and people who interact with him say the focus on his age and health is unfair and that he is fit enough to serve. They point to his work schedule and exercise routines prescribed by the White House physician.
The president has insisted he is able to serve another term, even as he tries to defuse concerns about his age with humor. At another fundraiser earlier Tuesday, Biden joked about being an octogenarian.
“It’s hell turning 40 twice,” he said.
With Trump, 77, leading the the GOP field by a wide margin, Biden has increasingly targeted his predecessor, treating him as the de facto nominee. That focus also comes as polls show Biden trailing Trump in a potential head-to-head matchup, fueled in part by worries over the president’s age and voter perceptions of his handling of the economy.
Prominent Wall Street leaders have also expressed dismay at the prospect of a Biden-Trump rematch in November and are eyeing other candidates for a potential eleventh-hour push to shake up the race.
Billionaire investor Bill Ackman said last week that Biden risks damaging his reputation if he seeks a second term, urging him to “step aside” and “create the opportunity for some competition.” Ackman said he was watching Minnesota Representative Dean Phillips, 54, who is pursuing a long-shot challenge against Biden for the Democratic nomination.
“Biden’s done a lot of good things. But I think his legacy will not be a good one if he is the nominee,” Ackman said in an interview with Bloomberg Television.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said voters should support former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, 51, as an alternative to Trump for the Republican nomination.
“Even if you’re a very liberal Democrat, I urge you, help Nikki Haley too,” Dimon said at the New York Times Dealbook Summit last week.
(With assistance from Jennifer Jacobs and Jordan Fabian.)
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