Biden's 'watch me moment' will haunt him in 2024 after recent fall, Republican strategists say
Republican and Democratic strategists are at odds over whether President Biden's tumble last week at an Air Force event, less than a year after he told voters to “watch me," could haunt him in the 2024 election.
Republican strategists are growing increasingly concerned over President Biden's ability to serve the nation after he took a tumble last week at an Air Force event, less than a year after he told voters to "watch me" if they don't believe he has what it takes to fulfill his duties for another term in office.
Several Republicans have questioned whether the 80-year-old Biden – the oldest person to serve as president of the U.S. – is physically and mentally up to the intense demands of the White House for another four years. However, many of those questioning his abilities had done so well before he fell at the commencement ceremony at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado last Thursday.
Last November, while fielding questions from reporters at the White House, Biden dismissed concerns from two-thirds of American voters who said in a poll that he should not seek re-election. "What is your message to them and how does that factor into your final decision about whether or not to run for re-election?" one reporter asked at the time.
"It doesn't" Biden replied. Asked once more at the time what his message would be to those who oppose his endeavors to seek another term, Biden said, "Watch me."
Some Republicans who have watched, however, tell Fox News Digital that they are not impressed.
"We are all doing precisely what President Biden told us to do. We’re watching and listening to him, and we’re now more concerned than ever. He dismissed valid concerns about his ability to lead at his age and given he has Vice President Kamala Harris next in line, who can’t get through a written speech without getting lost and embarrassing herself, we all should be deeply concerned," said Jason Rantz, a Fox News contributor and radio host.
"The body and mind deteriorate as we get older. It’s normal. But he won’t admit it and that makes it seem like he’s hiding even more issues," Rantz added.
Similarly, Giancarlo Sopo, a Republican media strategist, said Biden's fall would not have had such an impact on voters if "things were running smoothly."
"While I am glad that President Biden was not hurt, his physical decline would not be as big of a political liability for him if things were running smoothly," Sopo said. "However, over 70% of Americans believe our country is on the wrong track and Biden’s job approval ratings are at historic lows. Politicians usually go on charm offensives to improve their numbers, but that is not an option at his disposal. Democrats know this, which is why they are terrified of running against a young energetic leader, like Gov. Ron DeSantis."
Reflecting on Biden's November remarks, Fox News contributor and civil rights attorney Leo Terrell said, "Biden’s ‘watch me’ moment is haunting him right now within his own party."
"The elephant in the room is the fact that Democrats do not want Joe Biden to run in the 2024 election. However, they are stuck with him," Terrell said. "Everyone knows Joe Biden is not mentally capable of being the leader of the greatest nation on earth. Can you imagine the number of falls outside the presence of the public? It’s not just the falls – Joe Biden cannot put a coherent sentence together. The world is witnessing a man, unfit mentally and physically, who hopes to remain in the White House for another 5 1/2 years."
"The biggest nightmare is his replacement, Kamala Harris. She is the most incompetent, unqualified vice president ever. If you can get Democratic leaders inside a silo, they will tell you the truth. Kamala Harris is not qualified to lead this nation. Personally, I wish Joe Biden the best health possible in order to avoid a Kamala Harris presidency."
Colin Reed, a founding member of South & Hill Strategies who served as campaign manager for former Massachusetts GOP Sen. Scott Brown, said Biden's fall last week "reinforces the narrative" that he is too old to remain in the White House.
"In this era of digital and social media, video reigns supreme, and the political optics of President Biden’s fall are as brutal as they are long-lasting. It reinforces the narrative that he is simply too old for the job, a belief held by nearly seven in 10 voters and one that cuts across party and ideological lines," he said. "The incident is poised to jump-start a debate over debates and a broader discussion about a Democratic primary challenge."
"Domestic politics aside, we live in a dangerous world and the sight of an unsteady and fragile 80-year-old commander in chief falling on the national stage sends a dangerous message to our geopolitical foes who wish our country harm," Reed added.
Kathy Barnette, the national grassroots director and advisor to Vivek Ramaswamy's 2024 presidential campaign, said Biden's "inability to lead our country precedes his latest stumble over a sandbag – a sandbag, mind you, that had been on stage the entire time and countless others saw it and avoided it, until Biden."
"Biden’s ‘watch me’ mandate is indicative of just how out of touch his entire administration is to the increasing misery of American citizens," added Barnette, a Republican candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania last cycle. "He inherited an inflation rate of 1.7%, after being in office for less than one year it jumped to 8% and now hovers around 5%. Biden’s latest stumble is reflective of how he’s handling the country. Just like him, we’re all watching the country stumble, and we fear she may not be able to recover and get back up."
Despite concern from Republicans over his ability to serve, others, including Democratic strategists who are closely monitoring the 2024 race for the White House, insist "too much is being made of the fall" and that Biden's accomplishments in office – as opposed to his physical and mental abilities – are of more importance to voters.
Boyd Matheson, the host of "Inside Sources" for KSL News Radio and the former chief of staff to Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said it would be "a political mistake for Republicans to run a race railing against the president's age and health rather than running a race on a vision for the future."
"Many Democrats are wringing their hands in worry, while many Republicans are licking their chops at President Biden's fall this week," he said. "Both are missing the more important issue. Americans have dealt with a president in a wheelchair, one that stumbled and bumped his head often, one whose memory was beginning to fade – just to name a few. This election will be based not on age or frailties that come with it. It will be based on the strength and agility of an American agenda to address the needs of the nation."
"Yes, the president will have to prove his mental dexterity in debates and showcase his grasp of the issues in interviews while being able to confidently connect in his interaction with the American people," Matheson added. "The rigors of the job are real and President Biden has had good and bad moments over the past year and people will take his challenge to, 'watch me' seriously.
"I think the fall is an embarrassing moment for a president who needs to look down and whose health is clearly fragile. Most voters say he is too old to run again," said Mark Penn, a Democratic pollster and Fox News contributor.
"But more importantly, he negotiated a bipartisan budget deal and had a good jobs report, and those are more important to most Americans," added Penn, who served as a chief strategist for the presidential campaigns of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Weighing in on the issue, Fox News contributor and Democratic strategist Jessica Tarlov said voters who are paying attention to what Biden is doing are "seeing a slew of accomplishments."
"I think too much is being made of the fall," said Tarlov, who also serves as the head of research for Bustle. "If voters are watching Biden and the job he’s doing, they’re seeing a slew of accomplishments – debt ceiling bill and incredible jobs report just this week. Concerns about his age are legitimate and he shouldn’t avoid them, but there is no evidence he can’t govern. The fall was unsightly and concerning, but doesn’t mean he isn’t a hugely effective president."
In agreement, Joe Trippi, a senior adviser to the Lincoln Project, said Biden's fall could not overshadow the president's record.
"Time and time again Joe Biden's wisdom and experience have resulted in major bipartisan results for the American people," he said. "The big result last week was his work to crush the extremists in the House of Representatives and achieve an over 300 vote bipartisan majority budget agreement. His detractors will focus on a stumble caused by a misplaced sandbag instead."
"Biden got up, dusted himself off and went back to work. But maybe he was right when he quipped, ‘I was sandbagged!’ Watch what he has achieved and how he gets up, dusts himself off and goes back to work to find common ground for all Americans," Trippi added.
Biden announced in an April video message that he and Harris would seek re-election next year to "finish the job" they started.
"When I ran for president four years ago, I said we are in a battle for the soul of America – and we still are. The question we are facing is whether in the years ahead we have more freedom or less freedom, more rights or fewer," Biden said in the announcement.
Fox News' Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.