Biden’s age is his ‘superpower’ in 2024, Jeffrey Katzenberg says

18 July 2023 - 13:51 By Nandita Bose
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US President Joe Biden turned 80 last November. File photo.
US President Joe Biden turned 80 last November. File photo.
Image: Reuters

Movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, who is advising Joe Biden on his re-election campaign, says he sees opportunity in what many consider to be the US President’s biggest vulnerability in the 2024 presidential race — his age.

Biden, a Democrat who turned 80 in November, is already the oldest Oval Office occupant, and will be 86 before a second term ends.

Katzenberg, in a telephone interview, described Biden as “energetic” and “effective”, and suggested Republican attacks on his age will backfire.

“President Biden’s age is his superpower,” Katzenberg said. “I think people have tried to paint it as a liability or a negative and I think they are going to fail at that because his age is his knowledge and experience and, as he has said, it is his wisdom.”

Polls show that an overwhelming number of Americans, about 86%, believe the cut-off for serving as president should be 75 or younger, and while most Democrats consider Biden “mentally sharp”, nearly half of Democrats wonder if he’s up for the challenge of running in 2024.

Republican presidential candidates such as Nikki Haley have publicly questioned if Biden will make it to the end of his second-term, while Republican lawmakers such as Ted Cruz have highlighted Biden’s age and questioned vice-president Kamala Harris’s ability to take over as commander-in-chief.

Biden’s top Republican challenger, former President Donald Trump, is 77. About one-fourth of Republicans have similar concerns about Trump.

Some Democrats expect such attacks on Biden’s age and family will increase in 2024.

“The age thing is going to become more important to them because other arguments [against Biden] have evaporated in recent months,” including inflation, high gas prices and record border crossings, predicts Simon Rosenberg, a veteran Democratic political strategist.

Former Disney executive Katzenberg’s opinion is likely to be reflected in Biden’s campaign in the months to come. A longtime Democrat donor and fundraiser, he’s the only non-politician named campaign co-chair when Biden announced his re-election plans in April.

Katzenberg has known Biden since the 1980s, and the two became close as Katzenberg supported former president Barack Obama.

After Trump’s election, Katzenberg encouraged Biden to run, Biden aides have said, and then to seek a second term.

‘Summer cycle’

Katzenberg, who is tasked with raising money and to help with messaging strategies, said he has not seen any “pockets of resistance” from corporate donors whose industries may have been hurt by White House policies, which include pushing higher corporate taxes and cracking down on junk fees and other profit-plumping activities.

The campaign, which released its fundraising haul for the first quarter last week, has held more than nearly 40 fundraising events for the wealthy compared to a handful of political rallies for the public.

Ten donors, including Katzenberg and Linkedin co-founder Reid Hoffman, gave $500,000 (R8.95m) or more to the Biden Victory Fund.

Another 82 donors contributed $100,000 (R1.79m) or more since Biden announced his intention to run for a second term.

Katzenberg predicts fundraising for the president’s re-election campaign will slow in coming months. “When you go into the summer cycle things quieten down,” Katzenberg said. “People are away on vacation and it’s not as rich an environment to be raising funds.”

Some Democratic strategists have also questioned the campaign’s slow start. Biden’s campaign had four members on the payroll and spent a total of $1.1m million (R19.7m) in the first three months since launch.

Katzenberg said it is part of a strategy to survive a gruelling 16-month campaign without exhausting its resources.

“It's July 2023. Building out the leadership of that operation today, so they can sit around and twiddle their thumbs for the next six months would be nuts,” he said.


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