“Joe Biden. He understands what’s happening today.”
The newspaper ad ran a few weeks before the 1972 Senate election in Delaware, when the upstart 29-year-old was challenging a 63-year-old incumbent. The ad, which appeared in The News Journal, Delaware’s major newspaper, happened to run under a column that described Biden’s newly combative strategy in the closing days of the race.
Biden’s approach then, according to the columnist, was “in effect, ‘Dear old dad may have been right for his time—and I love him—but things are different now.’”
The world was changing in the 1970s. It’s changing even more now. But the early months (at least) of the 2020 race are going to be dominated by three white men in their 70s arguing about how to make America great again: Donald Trump is turning 73 in June, Biden is 76, Bernie Sanders is 77.
Trump wants age to be an issue—he thinks it helps him. “I look at Joe, I don’t know about him … They’re all making me look very young, both in terms of age and in terms of energy,” he said on Friday, getting onto a helicopter on the White House lawn. “I am a young, vibrant man.”
Before they’re able to take on Trump, however, Biden and Sanders will have to confront a field full of candidates young enough to be their children. Five of the Democrats running weren’t even born when Biden first ran for Senate and Sanders was still just a gadfly in local Vermont politics. Beto O’Rourke was about a month old when that News Journal column ran. And the race is happening as young people are voting more: Census data released earlier this week found that from 2014 to 2018, there was a 79 percent jump in voting among people ages 18 to 29.