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• This is correct: Biden was two months older than 78 when he took office, which was about 10 weeks older than Reagan was on his final day as president.
As President Joe Biden looks ahead to running for reelection next year, polling shows Americans have concerns about his age. Biden is 80, and he will be just weeks away from 82 on Election Day 2024.
An NBC News poll found that 70% of respondents — and 51% of Democrats — say Biden should not run for a second term. Among those who don’t want Biden to run, almost half cited his age is a "major" reason why.
On ABC’s "This Week" political roundtable, Politico journalist Jonathan Martin offered a comparison that put Biden’s age into context.
"Joe Biden was older on his first day as president than Ronald Reagan was on his last day," Martin said April 30. "He's not going to escape the age issue."
This comparison checks out.
Then-President Ronald Reagan and Democratic nominee Walter Mondale during their second debate Oct. 21, 1984, in Kansas City, Mo. (White House collection, via Wikimedia Commons)
As president from 1981 to 1989, Reagan was well-known for being the oldest president to date. Age was a topic of concern when he ran for reelection.
In a 1984 reelection debate against his Democratic challenger, Walter Mondale, a panelist asked Reagan, who was then 73, whether he had any doubts that he could function effectively as president given his age.
Reagan’s response was an instant classic: "I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."
Mondale, who was 56 then and had a decadeslong career in the Senate and as vice president, laughed heartily, as did everyone else in the hall. (Reagan went on to win 49 states in his bid for a second term.)
So was Biden older than Reagan? The answer is yes.
Then-President Ronald Reagan and then-Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., in 1987. (White House Television Office via Wikimedia Commons)
Here’s a breakdown:
• Reagan was born on Feb. 6, 1911.
His final day in office was Jan. 20, 1989.
His age on that day was about two weeks shy of 78.
• Biden was born on Nov. 20, 1942.
His first day in office was Jan. 20, 2021.
His age on that day was two months older than 78.
So at Biden’s inauguration, he was 10 weeks older than Reagan was on his final day in office.
Notably, Biden’s once and possibly future Republican opponent, Donald Trump, is also relatively old. Trump is about three years and five months younger than Biden.
• Trump was born on June 14, 1946.
If Trump wins the 2024 presidential election, he would be sworn in on Jan. 20, 2025.
His age on that day would be roughly 78 and a half, which would also be older than Reagan was on his final day in office.
For what it’s worth, life expectancy in the U.S. has increased since Reagan’s day. When Reagan was born in 1911, the life expectancy for a man was 50.9 years. By the time Biden was born in 1942, it had risen to 64.7 years. A baby born in 2021 could expect to live 76.1 years.
Martin said, "Joe Biden was older on his first day as president than Ronald Reagan was on his last day."
That’s correct. Biden was two months older than 78 when he took office, which was about 10 weeks older than Reagan was on his final day as president.
We rate the statement True.
ABC’s "This Week," transcript, April 30, 2023
NBC News poll, April 2023
NBC News, "NBC News poll: Nearly 70% of GOP voters stand behind Trump amid indictment and investigations," April 23, 2023
Transcript of presidential debate between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale in Kansas City, Mo., Oct. 21, 1984
Video clip of Reagan’s comment about Mondale’s youth and inexperience, Oct. 21, 1984
Ronald Reagan, White House biography, accessed May 1, 2023
Donald Trump, White House biography, accessed May 1, 2023
The Washington Post, "Biden turns 80 and other fun facts about the oldest U.S. presidents," Nov. 19, 2022
U.S. life expectancy, 1900-1998
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Life expectancy in the U.S. dropped for the second year in a row in 2021," Aug. 31, 2022
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