82 years old.
If elected, Biden’s second term would extend beyond his 86th birthday.
The life expectancy of a US male is 76 years old, meaning that Biden would need to exceed the life expectancy by 13 percent just to live through his second term; meaning, there is a high probability that whoever is vice president will have to assume the duties of the presidency in the event that Biden’s health fails.
And while every vice president is measured for their abilities to step into the presidency if required, no president has ever been nearly expected to step into the presidency.
So, consideration of Biden’s running mate will need to extend beyond the trite calculations of Electoral College math, and the hypothetical can-this-person-serve-as-president thought exercises.
Biden’s running mate will need to be measured as if he/she were being elected president themselves.
Republicans will target Harris
Capable of doing simple math, the Republicans will conclude the high probability of Harris assuming the office of the presidency sometime before the 2028 election.
And that could be a problem for Democrats, given Harris’s easy targetability – and limited upside.
“Does Harris have any political identity at all with swing voters, or the public at large, that could conclude she could step up to the presidency if Biden fell into an open manhole and was never seen again?” Harold Meyerson asks in a recent piece for Prospect.
As a former presidential candidate, Harris floundered; her 2020 campaign went belly up in December 2019 – at a time when Marianne Williamson, Julian Castro, and John Delaney were still in the race.
As vice president, Harris hasn’t made much of a name for herself. “In a ranking of Biden administration visibility, [Harris] is well below Tony Blinken, Janet Yellen, Pete Buttigieg, the departed Ron Klain, and sundry others,” Meyerson wrote. “She played no visible role in Biden’s historic legislative victories.”
Most tellingly, perhaps: “it’s hard to find Democratic pols or liberal activists who spring to [Harris’s] defense,” Meyerson wrote. Without the ardent defense from her own side, Harris may well prove a political liability beneath the withering scrutiny she can be expected to face during the 2024 campaign.
Can Biden replace Harris?
While adding Harris to the 2024 ticket is risky, removing her is equally so.
Were Kamala Harris to be replaced on the ticket, the Biden campaign would be castigated for racism and misogyny – not a great look for a guy trying to court the vote of liberals and progressives.
Any claim of an -ism would be a little silly given that Harris was added to Biden’s ticket, voluntarily, in 2020; and that her viability for 2024 is being measured on the merits of her performance during Biden’s first term.
But claims like that have a habit of doing damage.
With respect to Harris, Biden will have a difficult decision. Neither option – the status quo, or a change – will be without a political downside.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.