The 2020 presidential race is a contest between two old men. Neither Trump, 74, nor Joe Biden, 77, has quite the same verve that he did 25 years ago, which comes as no surprise—if Biden wins, he will become the oldest president to take office, eclipsing the mark set by Trump.
The president and his supporters have painted the former vice president as senile or suffering from dementia. In a Pew Research Center poll from August, three in 10 Biden supporters flagged his age and health as a concern about him. But Trump’s age and health didn’t even crack the list of his backers’ top concerns. So how has Trump, who has sought to make Biden’s age and capabilities an election issue, managed to deflect concerns about his own performance?
Biden does sometimes sound old on the campaign trail, and he’s had a few head-scratching moments, but for the most part, he speaks cogently. Trump, by contrast, appears vigorous and energetic, but many of the things he says are incoherent.
During a trip to Wilmington, North Carolina, last week, President Donald Trump said—well, it’s a little unclear what he said. Here’s a transcript:
If you get the unsolicited ballots, send it in and then go, make sure it counted, and if it doesn’t tabulate, you vote. Just vote. And then if they tabulate it very late, which they shouldn’t be doing, they’ll see you voted and so it won’t count. So send it in early and then go and vote, and if it’s not tabulated, you vote, and the vote is going to count. You can’t let them take your vote away. These people are playing dirty politics—dirty politics. So if you have an absentee ballot, or as I call it a solicited ballot, you send it in, but I would check it in any event. I would go and follow it and go vote—and everyone here wants to vote—the old-fashioned way.
By the next morning, Trump was trying to clean up the mess with a Twitter thread in which he told voters to cast a mail ballot, then go to their polling place to make sure their vote had been counted, and only to cast a ballot in person if it had not—advice that not just contravenes the advice of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, but was also an admission that what he’d said the day before didn’t match reality.