Portrait of Ron DeSantis

DeSantis Campaign Press Release - In the News: Washington Examiner's Ryan King: DeSantis flashes youth and energy as he runs against Trump and Biden

June 07, 2023

The Washington Examiner today reported on how Governor Ron DeSantis "has been playing up his 'energetic executive' pitch to voters" and that "if the Florida governor wins next year, he will become the third-youngest president in U.S. history and the first from Generation X." Read the full story below.

DeSantis flashes youth and energy as he runs against Trump and Biden
Ryan King
June 7, 2023
Washington Examiner

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has been playing up his "energetic executive" pitch to voters as he battles former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden, who are nearly twice his age.

DeSantis's considerable age gap sets him apart from Biden and Trump in the 2024 race --- both of whom are nearly twice his age. If the Florida governor wins next year, he will become the third-youngest president in U.S. history and the first from Generation X.

"We tend to forget how young he is," historian David Pietrusza told the Washington Examiner. "We've never had guys this old, like Biden and Trump. And Biden and Trump kind of fall into two different categories because Biden is noticeably not in great shape."

Last week, concerns about Biden's age were highlighted after he tripped and fell on stage at an U.S. Air Force Academy graduation ceremony in Colorado. DeSantis was quick to seize on the stumble.

"Isn't it kind of just symbolic about the state of the country? You have a president who lacks energy, who's stumped, stumbling around. No leadership for the country's future," DeSantis said during a radio interview with Kelly Golden.

At 80, Biden is the oldest president in U.S. history. He would be 82 during a second inauguration and 86 by the term's conclusion. Should Trump win, he would finish his term as the second oldest after Biden.

Numerous polls have pointed to concern among voters about Biden's age. For instance, an NBC poll released in April concluded that 70% of adults believed Biden shouldn't vie for another term, and 69% indicated that age was a factor. Thirty-two percent of respondents felt Biden had the mental sharpness needed to be president compared to 54% of those asked about Trump in a Washington Post-ABC News poll last month.

"If you were to look at Biden and Trump, we are essentially turning the clock back to 2000. If you look at sort of who the nominees were, Al Gore, born in 1948, George W. Bush born in 1946," GOP strategist Dennis Lennox, a DeSantis backer, said. "Biden could essentially be the great grandfather of most 18-year-old voters," he added, referring to voters in the 2024 election.

Biden has called questions about his age "totally legitimate" and maintained that voters "are going to judge whether or not I have it. His allies have fended off attacks about his age. His physician gave him a relatively clean bill of health, according to a summary released back in February.

Meanwhile, Trump has largely skated by questions about his septuagenarian status. His campaign shrugged off questions about whether DeSantis's comparative youth could be an asset by emphasizing Trump's commanding lead in virtually every major poll.

"President Trump is dominating in poll after poll, both statewide and national, because the American people know he is the only person who can win the White House in 2024," spokesman Steven Cheung said. "The reality is only one candidate has built the greatest economy in American history."

Only former Presidents Theodore Roosevelt at 42 and John F. Kennedy at 43 began their administrations younger than DeSantis would, should he win and start at age 46. Former President Bill Clinton is close, commencing his presidency at 46, but his birthday is a few weeks before the Florida governor, so DeSantis would be a little younger.

Targeting opponents' age hasn't always worked in elections. President Ronald Reagan, for instance, converted concerns about his age into an asset for his campaign with his famous quip that he was "not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."

"Age is not something that can easily be hidden on the campaign trail. It's a very obvious aspect of a candidate's profile. But in many ways, it's a cheap shot if the candidates are delivering on their policies and their promises and they're able to carry out their duties," Northeastern University political science Chairman Costas Panagopoulos said.

Panagopoulos stressed that age is just one of many considerations voters take into account at the ballot box and noted that in a "highly polarized political climate," it can be "very difficult to nudge voters off of their choices."

Moreover, some analysts warn that age-based attacks could come across as overly cut-throat and off-putting to voters.

"You don't want to look cruel. So maybe you leave that to surrogates. Or you just in your campaign ads and videos. ... You can do a Joe Biden lowlight reel and get your message across that way," Pietrusza said.

Some presidential aspirants have been blunter about Biden's age, such as 2024 hopeful Nikki Haley, who has called for mental competency tests for politicians over 75. Thus far, DeSantis's team and allied super PACs appear to have largely strayed away from direct digs at his rivals' ages.

"Republicans want a leader focused on the future --- someone with the energy and backbone to send Joe Biden back to his basement in Delaware. Gov. DeSantis has that in spades," Dave Vasquez, national press secretary for the DeSantis-aligned Never Back Down PAC, said.

Instead of harping on Trump's or Biden's ages, DeSantis has homed in on competency and pitched himself as a deeply engaged and in-command leader. This pitch seemingly doubles as a jab at Biden over his various mishaps and Trump, whom he has bashed for retaining Dr. Anthony Fauci during the pandemic.

"We need an energetic executive. We need somebody that's going to get in there on day one and spit nails and really take Washington by storm," DeSantis added in the Kelly Golden Radio hit last week.

Beyond the attempts at casting himself as an energetic executive, DeSantis's youth and young family could help him connect with disillusioned voters, according to Lennox.

"He's got kids. He's basically our age," Lennox, who is in his 30s, added. "My generation --- we're facing serious problems in this country. We can't afford to buy houses; many of us can't afford to get married and have children. ... He's very relatable for somebody in their late 30s and 40s who are facing those sorts of generational problems."

Ron DeSantis, DeSantis Campaign Press Release - In the News: Washington Examiner's Ryan King: DeSantis flashes youth and energy as he runs against Trump and Biden Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/364203

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