Health Concerns Take Center Stage As Septuagenarians Battle For Democratic Nomination

It was touted as “the most diverse field of Democratic presidential candidates ever.”

Now there are three old white guys and an old white women atop the heap.

In a remarkable twist, 77-year-old Joe Biden is now the youngster among the men, as Sen. Bernie Sanders and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are both 78.

Biden earned the honor after 38-year-old former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg — the first openly gay man to run for president — dropped out on Monday. On Saturday, another “young” candidate, 62-year-old billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, bailed.

Meanwhile, the other top candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, is 70 — and white.

So “the most diverse field of Democratic presidential candidates ever” is, for all intents and purposes, down to four whites in their 70s.

At one point in the race, there were more than 20 candidates. There were six women, including Sen. Kamala Harris, who is black. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (still in the race but barely measuring in the polls) is the first Hindu member of Congress and the first Samoan American to run for president.

There were also three black men running for the White House, including a sitting senator and governor. Julian Castro, another former candidate, is of Mexican descent, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang, whose parents emigrated from Taiwan to the U.S. in the 1960s, rounded out the field.

But the former vice president is not all that spry anymore, and President Trump loves slapping him around. “You know, that guy can’t put two sentences together,” Trump said of Biden at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside of Washington over the weekend.

The president also mocked Biden’s age, saying that if he wins the White House, he “is not going to be running the government; he’s just going to be sitting in a home someplace and people are going to be running it for him.”

Biden, for his part, continually helps Trump. On Monday, when he tried to quote a line from the Declaration of Independence during a campaign event in Texas, he said: “We hold these truths to be self-evident. All men and women created … by the — you know — you know the thing.”

Age is a big factor in the 2020 race. Trump was targeted over his age and health during the 2016 campaign before he became the oldest president in U.S. history. On Inauguration Day, Trump was 70 years and 220 days old — but the Democratic men running for the nomination now are way older.

The health of the old codgers is also making headlines.

Sanders suffered a heart attack in October and last week he backtracked on a promise to release his full medical records.

“We have released, I think, quite as much as any other candidate has,” Sanders said. “We released two rather detailed letters from cardiologists and we released a letter that came from the head of the U.S. Congress medical group.”

But after his heart attack, Sanders promised to release his full health records “before the first votes are cast,” saying it was “the right thing to do.” That didn’t happen.

His campaign took offense at the repeated questions about the 2020 front-runner’s health records, saying they are tantamount to “birtherism.”

Briahna Joy Gray, the campaign’s national press secretary, also said Bloomberg “has suffered heart attacks in the past.”

Bloomberg campaign adviser Tim O’Brien called that claim a “Trumpy lie.”

“Mike Bloomberg has *never* had a heart attack,” O’Brien said in a post on Twitter. “Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has had a heart attack. Those are the facts. It’s a dangerous time when Sanders goes all-in with Trumpism.”

However in 2000, Bloomberg did undergo surgery to place coronary stents for a blocked artery, and he has an irregular heartbeat.

Still, the fears of an elderly president passing away in office could be overblown.

The American Federation of Aging Research estimated the chances for the 2020 candidates to survive one and two terms. For one term, Sanders came in at 76.8%, Biden 79.2%, Trump 84.8% (to make it through a second term), Warren 91.8%. For two terms, it was Sanders 66.6%, Biden 70% and Warren 88%.

Bloomberg wasn’t a candidate at the time, so the authors didn’t run numbers on him.

But the bottom line is this: All four of the candidates would benefit from picking a younger running mate, just as Sen. John McCain did when he put then-Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska on his ticket. So look for the Democratic nominee to pick someone like former Rep. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke of Texas, or even Castro, Buttigieg or Gabbard.

*Joseph Curl ran the Drudge Report from 2010 to 2014 and covered the White House for a dozen years. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at @JosephCurl. A version of this article ran previously in The Washington Times.


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