Does Pelosi stepping down give Democrats enough change for Biden to run again?

The retirement of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) from the top spot among lower chamber Democrats has set in motion generational change among the party’s congressional leadership.

Pelosi, 82, won’t lead the House Democrats in the next Congress. House Majority Steny Hoyer (D-MD) stood down shortly afterward.

Will that be good enough for President Joe Biden, who turns 80 on Sunday, to seek a second term?

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Although Democrats beat expectations in the midterm elections earlier this month, exit polls showed 67% don’t want Biden to run for reelection to 30% who did.

Past polling has indicated this sentiment is especially strong among younger voters, including Democrats.

A New York Times/Siena College poll over the summer found that 94% of Democrats under 30 preferred a different 2024 nominee. His age ranked as a top factor in why Democrats wanted to make a change.

“I’m just going to come out and say it: I want younger blood,” a 38-year-old preschool teacher in northern Michigan told the New York Times. “I am so tired of all old people running our country. I don’t want someone knocking on death’s door.”

Biden hasn’t made a final decision on whether he will run for reelection, but has indicated he intends to as long as his health holds up.

The president told reporters this month he would consult with his family and announce a decision earlier this month. But he and first lady Jill Biden have reportedly begun the early stages of campaign planning. He has also been less noncommittal about a second term in some private conversations with supporters.

Biden would turn 82 shortly after the 2024 presidential election. He is already the oldest man ever elected president.

“The presidency is a monstrously taxing job and the stark reality is the president would be closer to 90 than 80 at the end of a second term, and that would be a major issue,” David Axelrod, a longtime top political adviser to former President Barack Obama, said when leading Democrats begun whispering about Biden’s age in June.

“He looks his age and isn’t as agile in front of a camera as he once was, and this has fed a narrative about competence that isn’t rooted in reality,” he added, saying it would be a “major issue” in a reelection campaign.

But Democrats retained the Senate and lost fewer than expected seats in the House, with Republicans only clinching the majority on Wednesday, over a week after Election Day.

That strengthened Biden’s hand should he want to run again. He can say that he beat former President Donald Trump in 2020 and defied history two years later. Trump has already said he is running again.

The Democrat who appears furthest along in terms of running in Biden’s stead, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA), has said he will not challenge the president in the primaries. Vice President Kamala Harris is also a logical successor, though her poll numbers are not appreciably better than the boss’s.

At a minimum, the push for a Biden primary challenger will be more muted.

“History will note she is the most consequential Speaker of the House of Representatives in our history,” Biden said in a statement about Pelosi on Thursday.

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Another factor that led some Democrats to want to move on from Biden was the slow pace of legislative progress, which finally broke during the summer, leading to a moderate rebound in his job approval ratings.

Pelosi’s departure from leadership, the Republicans’ recapture of the House, and the presence of at least 49 GOP senators will make it difficult for Biden to push further legislation, especially on liberal policy goals.

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