Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden told an audience in Iowa on Tuesday that his choice for vice president will have to be “immediately” capable of taking over as commander-in-chief “because I’m an old guy.”
The remark highlights what many consider the former vice president’s biggest political liability. If elected in November, he will be 78 by Inauguration Day, making him the oldest president ever sworn into office by eight years.
Biden initially was asked if he would select California Sen. Kamala Harris as his second-in-command.
He praised the former presidential candidate, saying that “she has the capacity to do just about anything.”
But Biden said his first requirement for vice president is that the person is capable of taking over as president.
“For me, it has to be demonstrated that whomever I pick, there’s two things: One, he’s capable of immediately being a president, because I’m an old guy,” he said.
Biden immediately qualified his candid remarks, saying that he is “in great health” because he works out every morning.
— Cleve R. Wootson Jr. (@CleveWootson) January 29, 2020
The former vice president has insisted throughout the campaign that his age should improve his electability.
“Look, one of the reasons I’m running is because of my age and my experience,” Biden said during a debate on Oct. 15.
“With it comes wisdom,” he continued. “We need someone to take office this time around who on day one can stand on the world stage, command the respect of world leaders from [Russia’s Vladimir] Putin to our allies, and know exactly what has to be done to get this country back on track.”
Biden has been dogged by concerns about his age throughout the campaign.
His chief critics have pointed to his repeated gaffes on the campaign trail and several speeches where he misidentified cities and states, or mixed up decades when certain events occurred.
Earlier on Tuesday, Biden snapped at an Iowa voter who questioned his position on gas pipelines.
“Go vote for someone else,” Biden told the man.
A man in Iowa asks Joe Biden to stop supporting the building of new pipelines. Joe Biden tells him to go vote for someone else and then starts accusing him of voting for Bernie Sanders. Actually, the man says, he’s voting for Tom Steyer. Very awkward. pic.twitter.com/OOuGiypED8
— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) January 28, 2020
Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez questioned whether Biden’s age had anything to do with his poor debate performances over the summer.
“His [Biden’s] performance on the stage kind of raised some questions with respect to [his age],” the New York Democrat said in an interview in July.
Ocasio-Cortez has endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the Democratic presidential race. Sanders, 78, is older than Biden.
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