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Biden is obviously an old man with a fading memory. But don't expect the special-counsel report to significantly affect 2024.

Biden speaks at the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference in Leesburg, Virginia, on February 8, 2024.
President Joe Biden speaking at the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference in Leesburg, Virginia, on Thursday.Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images
  • The special counsel Robert Hur's report says some unflattering things about President Joe Biden's memory.

  • But it's unlikely to significantly impact the 2024 race: Voters already know this about him.

  • Voters will have a binary choice to make, and plenty are still ready to reject Donald Trump again.

"A sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory."

This is perhaps the most-cited line from the special counsel Robert Hur's report on President Joe Biden's handling of classified documents, which recommended no charges against the president.

That line — along with the report's revelation that Biden apparently forgot the dates of his own vice presidency as well as when his son Beau died — is embarrassing. It's likely to be cited by Republicans as evidence that Biden's not up to the job and by his long-shot primary challenger, Rep. Dean Phillips, as evidence that voters should make him the Democratic nominee instead.

But here's the thing: Are you really surprised by this?

Polling has consistently shown that people are concerned about the 81-year-old Biden's age and what effects that may have on his mental acuity and physical health. In a recent NBC News poll, 76% of respondents, including half of those who were Democrats, said they had major or moderate concerns about it.

Yet that same poll suggested former President Donald Trump was leading Biden by 47% to 42% — not a good result for Biden, but not unsalvageable. Trump has a narrow lead on Biden in polling averages, but the general election has yet to fully begin.

The point: Biden's age is essentially baked into voters' expectations, even for those supporting him, in much the same way that Trump's myriad scandals are baked in for GOP voters.

What's different about the Hur comments is that they're spelled out in an official Department of Justice report, giving the obvious memory lapses a patina of officiality that Biden's numerous on-camera slipups lack.

Yet it's worth noting those as well.

Biden confused not one but two European heads of state for their dead predecessors in the last week. And last summer, Biden confused Ukraine for Iraq twice in 24 hours. Since the beginning of Biden's presidency, he's issued occasional gaffes, tripped on stairs, and had other incidents that highlight the fact that he's old.

In the coming days, Democratic lawmakers and other elected officials are likely to squirm a little bit when asked about this, but ultimately, they'll probably fall in line.

The party as a whole, save for Phillips and his minority of supporters, has felt confident in their ability to win over the public, not by insisting upon Biden's sharp wit but by the policies that Democratic trifectas were able to deliver in 2021 and 2022.

And as the country stares down another Biden vs. Trump rematch, Democrats will be in a strong position to make a simple case: You may not love Biden, but the alternative is a man who tried to overturn an election and whose rhetoric has only grown more authoritarian in recent years.

Take, for example, the reaction of George Conway, the prominent Never-Trump Republican lawyer.

"It's not great; it's not helpful; and under ordinary circumstances it would be devastating," Conway wrote of the Hur report on X. "But he's running against a criminal psychopath."

Read the original article on Business Insider