According to the latest Wall Street Journal poll, over 70% of all Americans think Joe Biden is too old to be running for reelection as president.
What is so striking about the poll is that only 47% said the same thing about Donald Trump, who is just three years younger than Biden.
Why the big difference: 73% versus 47%? Biden has released all of his medical records, unlike Trump, who refuses to do so. In fact, Biden may well be in better health. He is certainly more transparent about his medical condition.
Does three years make a 26-point difference? Does Joe just "read" older than the Don?
Maybe so. It's his bluster, his fiery demeanor, that makes Trump seem younger. But that has nothing to do with how healthy he is, or how likely he is to survive the rigors of high office. The fact that the Don is full of beans may make him seem like a younger man, but does that qualify him for president?
Trump on the attack seems to be many things, but old isn't one of them. Still, there is something terribly unfair about giving credit to a loudmouth for vigor, if that's what is going on.
And what about Joe? Is he being marked down because of an occasional stutter? Is that what makes him seem older? Or the occasional missed step?
It's a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy: Once you're looking for signs of age, you find them. Once you decide someone seems old, you find more signs to reenforce that judgment.
You play the adjective game, or at least the press does: Is someone seasoned, which is a good word, or past their prime, which is not so good? A slip becomes a sign of age. A misplaced sand bag on the stage becomes a national story. It all adds up.
As the campaign unfolds, anything that goes wrong for Joe Biden will be chalked up to a sign of age, whether fairly or not.
Meanwhile, Trump blusters on, and the bluster — the more vigorous the better — reenforces the image of the forceful man. Not exactly a substitute for youth, but unfortunately in this equation it comes close enough.
The press plays him as the tireless fighter, the furious pugilist, an image that does not call out his age the way that "Uncle Joe" does.
In an ideal world, both Biden and Trump might be more attractive as candidates if they were 10 years younger. But that's a silly game. We don't live in an ideal world. And it is also true that one of the assets that Biden brings to the job is experience and maturity that, yes, come with age.
The question, at the end of the day, is not how old Joe Biden is, but compared to whom? The fact is that he is running for president, and so is Trump, regardless of their ages, and the voters will ultimately have to look past the age issue and make their choice.
Susan Estrich is a politician, professor, lawyer and writer. Whether on the pages of newspapers such as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post or as a television commentator on countless news programs on CNN, Fox News, NBC, ABC, CBS and NBC, she has tackled legal matters, women's concerns, national politics and social issues. Read Susan Estrich's Reports — More Here.