It takes so much to get to the White House, you just don’t walk away. Unless circumstances intervene, like they did with Lyndon Johnson in 1968 and Harry Truman in 1952. Both were deeply unpopular presidents and chose to retire, rather than risk possible humiliation with the voters.
In fact, over the past century, only one U.S. president chose to step aside when he had no political or economic reason to, and that was Calvin Coolidge in 1928. Given the booming economy of the Roaring ‘20s, “Silent Cal” almost certainly would have been re-elected.
Two years into his presidency, Joe Biden is in-between. The U.S. economy is doing better than most folks think, but this isn’t the Roaring ’20s. And Biden isn’t in the dumps like Truman or Johnson, whose Gallup poll approval rating among Americans was around 24% and 36%, respectively, when they bowed out.
So Biden can legitimately make a case for seeking re-election in 2024, except for this: age. Biden, 80, already is the oldest U.S. president ever and would be almost 82 on Election Day in 2024. Most Americans — including most Democrats — say they’d prefer someone else. (Meanwhile, a recent CNN/SSRS poll shows that six in 10 Republicans and GOP-leaning independents want their party to nominate someone other than Donald Trump to represent the party in 2024.
But even beyond worries about his age, there are several reasons why Biden shouldn’t run.
The first is that presidents often get into trouble in second terms. Richard Nixon resigned. Ronald Reagan had Iran-Contra, a huge scandal that saw 11 administration staffers indicted. Bill Clinton was impeached.
Then there is this: Second terms are often less economically successful than first terms. That’s according to a study conducted by The Economist, going back to the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09). Why? For the simple reason that “presidents who are elected for a second term are more likely to have had a good first term, making their second term look worse by comparison.” The magazine describes this phenomenon as “survivorship bias.” Yet there have been noteworthy exceptions, including Reagan and Clinton, each of whom presided over robust economies in their second terms.
What about the Biden economy? Republicans say it’s all bad, of course, and inflation (a global phenomenon) has given them plenty of ammo. Yet recent data shows food and energy prices falling 0.5% in December, a hopeful sign that the worst is over.
An objective look at a variety of other data — overall GDP growth, 11 million jobs added, 3.5% unemployment and a federal deficit that has dropped 56% since 2020 —the macro picture is arguably healthier than the so-called conventional wisdom would appear to suggest.
“ Debt is completely bipartisan: It grows under both Democrats and Republicans. ”
Read More: Opinion: Biden has a case for seeking re-election in 2024 — except for this