Focus on Biden health underscores future Trump attacks

Conservative media’s focus on Joe BidenJoe BidenFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries FDA aims to give full approval to Pfizer vaccine by Labor Day: report Overnight Defense: Police officer killed in violence outside Pentagon | Biden officials back repeal of Iraq War authorization | NSC pushed to oversee 'Havana Syndrome' response MORE’s health this week underscores how attacks on the former vice president’s age are likely to be a big part of the race if he’s the Democratic nominee. 

Biden will turn 77 this fall, and the issue of his age has repeatedly resurfaced since he entered the presidential race. 

President TrumpDonald TrumpFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries Missouri Rep. Billy Long enters Senate GOP primary Trump-backed Mike Carey wins GOP primary in Ohio special election MORE, who is just four years younger than Biden, already has made a number of allusions to Biden’s age, accusing the former vice president just last month of “not playing with a full deck.”

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Democrats and Republicans alike say they expect Trump to continue to play the age card, particularly whenever Biden makes a gaffe. 

“They’re going to make it all about him not being physically fit for the job,” said Shermichael Singleton, a Republican strategist who briefly worked for the Trump administration. “Republicans will use it to point out that he’s not ready for the job on day one.” 

The Drudge Report this week made a banner headline out of a story from the conservative Washington Examiner about a broken blood vessel in Biden’s left eye. 

Mainstream media outlets barely mentioned the incident, and the blood in Biden’s eye was hardly noticeable for many people watching the climate summit hosted live by CNN. 

But right-wing outlets played Biden’s eye as a major piece of news, foreshadowing attacks likely to come next summer and fall if Biden, the Democratic front-runner, wins his party’s nomination. 

The effort would be familiar to anyone who remembered attacks on Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries Shontel Brown wins Ohio Democratic primary in show of establishment strength READ: Cuomo's defense against sexual harassment investigation MORE’s age and physical stamina in 2016. 

Singleton predicted that Republicans will use “the same tactics” they used against Clinton in 2016 after she had pneumonia and nearly fainted at a Sept. 11 event that year.  

Democrats — particularly those who worked for Clinton — agree with that sentiment. 

Zac Petkanas, a Democratic strategist who worked on Clinton’s 2016 campaign, said it’s part of a larger narrative driven by conservatives. 

“All candidates should be on the lookout,” Petkanas said, adding that it “certainly did have an impact” on Clinton’s campaign and could also dent candidates such as Biden. 

He also suggested the argument could also be used against any Democrat who could be classified as a senior citizen. The two Democrats chasing Biden in polls are Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenStaff seeks to create union at DNC America's middle class is getting hooked on government cash — and Democrats aren't done yet California Democrats warn of low turnout in recall election MORE (D-Mass.), who is 70, and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries Briahna Joy Gray: Voters are 'torn' over Ohio special election Shontel Brown wins Ohio Democratic primary in show of establishment strength MORE (I-Vt.), who is 77. 

“Anybody over 60 would be susceptible,” Petkanas said. 

Adam Parkhomenko, who also worked on Clinton’s 2016 campaign, added that it’s “part of a limited line of attacks” that Republicans have “always used and are clearly planning to use this time.” 

Other Democrats haven’t made an issue of Biden’s age, though some strategists say it will be fair game this fall as the race gets hotter — particularly if Biden makes more verbal flubs.

Implicit, age-based attacks already are appearing. 

Tech businessman Andrew YangAndrew YangPoll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Kings launch voting rights effort honoring John Lewis Eric Adams to meet with Biden on curbing gun violence MORE, for example, said this week that electing Biden would take the country back in time — a nod to the attack by some Democrats that Biden is not from the generation that should lead the party in the future. 

It wasn’t an attack on Biden’s health or even a direct attack on his age, but it skirted close to the issue. 

Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanHouse passes spending bill to boost Capitol Police and Hill staffer pay Tim Ryan slams McCarthy for mocking Capitol physician, mask mandate Six takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections MORE (D-Ohio), one of the lower-tier Democratic challengers, also said he didn't think Biden had what it takes to defeat Trump.

"I just think Biden is declining. I don’t think he has the energy," Ryan said, according to Bloomberg News. "You see it almost daily. And I love the guy."

Ryan later added he did not know he was speaking to a reporter and that he was trying to raise money for his campaign, Bloomberg reported. 

“The Democratic presidential campaign is as much a generational battle as it is an ideological contest,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon, adding that the Democratic victories in 2018 of young progressive candidates such as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries Shontel Brown wins Ohio Democratic primary in show of establishment strength On The Money: Biden issues targeted eviction moratorium | GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal MORE (D-N.Y.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna Pressley'The Squad' celebrates Biden eviction moratorium Press: Inmates have taken over the asylum Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban MORE (D-Mass.) against older Democrats “were manifestations of generational conflict.” 

Biden's campaign declined to comment for this story. 

Sanders and Warren may not want to make age an issue, but former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegSunday shows - Delta variant, infrastructure dominate Sunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Chasten Buttigieg: DC 'almost unaffordable' MORE may try “to capitalize,” Bannon said. 

“So any physical problem like Biden’s eye that raises questions about a 70-something candidate’s health will be an ongoing storyline for the media and a problem for his campaign,” he added. 

Biden allies say they expect Trump to continue to come after the candidate as the primary plays out and the former vice president looks to retain his front-runner status. 

“Trump and Republicans feel threatened by the guy who is going to beat him,” one ally said. 

And some Democrats say Trump, who has battled with his weight and faced questions about his own health and mental acumen, should be ready for counterattacks.

“If they want to talk about health problems, we’re happy to have that conversation,” Parkhomenko said.