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Residents of Biden’s hometown say they doubt his health ahead of 2024 bid

By Sarah May on
 March 23, 2023

Though he has yet to formally announce a 2024 re-election campaign, President Joe Biden has long said it is his intention to seek a second term, but according to a new Reuters report, even those in his childhood hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania are expressing skepticism about the wisdom of that plan.

A number of those queried by the outlet indicated that Biden's age and the potential physical and mental challenges it may pose are among the most significant reasons for their hesitation about another run.

Skeptics in Scranton

Taking note of the fact that Biden – already 80 – would be 86 upon completion of a putative second term, a number of Scranton residents evinced real concern about another campaign, even if they supported him back in 2020.

Jean Saunders, 57, was not shy about expressing her concerns, stating, “I worry about his age and his health.”

Also indicating a desire to see new talent step into forefront of the Democratic Party was diner manager Kimberly Smith, 45, who mused, “I think it's kind of what he's supposed to do, run again, right? That's really what he's supposed to do. Is there a president that didn't go for a second run at all?”

“We just need someone fresh,” Smith added, echoing the sentiments of many.

Doubts persist among locals

Some Scranton residents explained that in addition to general concerns about Biden's age and health status, they simply believe it is time for a new standard bearer to emerge within the Democratic Party.

Scranton resident and fellow octogenarian Donald Banks declared, “The idea of a Biden-Trump rematch makes me cringe."

Leveling substantive criticisms at the current president was local activist Glyn Johns, who, despite prior optimism that Biden would bring renewed attention to the unique challenges of cities like Scranton, feels that the president's first term has been a disappointment so far.

“I still think there should be more than street names that are changed and highways that are renamed for you,” said Johns. Because those highways will still have potholes. People that are on Biden Street are still struggling with their businesses.”

Broader warning signs

Alarm bells about Biden's anticipated candidacy are sounding well beyond Scranton, as a survey of numerous prominent figures on the progressive left conducted by The Nation recently revealed.

Longtime trade unionist and former president of TransAfrica Forum, Bill Fletcher Jr., came down against the notion of a second Biden term, saying, “I'm not trying to be ageist, but the time has come for a new generation to assume leadership,” adding, “I am glad that Biden defeated Trump. Now we need more.”

Barbara Lawton, a former Wisconsin lieutenant governor, was also blunt in her assessment of the situation, saying, “Joe Biden should solidify his legacy and personal dignity by not running for reelection. My stomach clenches at the prospect of a venerable president becoming incapable of strong leadership for all the dangers of aging past 80, at the inevitable wince-worthy moments that may accrue to the point of putting our nation at risk.”

President of Healthy California Now, Michael Lighty, was emphatic in his opposition to a Biden reelection campaign, declaring that the president has “been in power during the 40-plus years of government failure to stem rampant inequality, the destruction of working-class urban and rural communities, and the expansion of corporate power,” and as such, wants his party to “choose someone who can make a clean break from the politics that got us here.”

“Too many things in his past history”

Further underscoring the physical and cognitive concerns so many appear to have about their aging president and the possibility that he will remain in office for another four years is Dr. David Scheiner, a former longtime physician to Barack Obama who weighed in on the matter earlier this year.

“By the time he completes [a second term], he'll be 86 years old; I don't care if he's in perfect health now – which, I can't believe he's in perfect health. He's had too many things in his past history,” warned Scheiner.

Noting his belief that an MRI or neurocognitive test should have been included in Biden's physical exam earlier this year, Scheiner observed, “Biden had an aneurysm repaired. When you do work on the brain, there's always a little damage done. He's had that atrial fibrillation – that can sometimes throw off small strokes. They're leaving a whole area of concern in my mind.”

Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais (TN-04) asserted in January, “The American people want to know that their commander in chief is fully capable of performing at the highest level to protect the safety and security of the nation,” and based on the feedback compiled by Reuters and The Nation in recent days, that appears to be an increasingly elusive objective – even within Biden's own party.