Haley hopes to boost election bid with attacks on Trump’s and Biden’s ages – The Guardian US
Candidate’s ailing campaign will use mobile billboard in her home state to highlight her opponents’ many verbal gaffes
Nikki Haley’s Republican presidential nomination campaign in South Carolina is set to parade a mobile billboard drawing attention to rival Donald Trump’s age on Saturday, as ageing and mental acuity issues continue to dominate the United States’ political discourse.
The stunt, which was scheduled to pass through Myrtle Beach, comes as Trump begins campaigning in Haley’s home state before the primary there on 24 February. It is scheduled to make stops outside a rally for the former president, according to the Hill, and show both Trump as well as Democratic incumbent Joe Biden appearing to fall into moments of confusion during public remarks.
At 52, Haley is about three decades younger than the two leading candidates for November’s election. The video is part of a series her campaign calls Grumpy Old Men.
While the 81-year-old Biden has received more attention for public mental blanks that have put Democrats on edge and prompted the president on Thursday to declare “my memory is fine”, Haley’s video highlights Trump’s mental miscues. Those include Trump’s confusing Haley with former House speaker Nancy Pelosi – a Democrat – and mixing up Sioux City, Iowa, with Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Kicking off her presidential campaign a year ago, Haley called for mandatory “mental competency tests” for politicians older than 75 and has since called for a “new generational leader” of her party.
Last month, Trump, 77, boasted that he could beat Haley – whom he appointed to serve as his United Nations ambassador – in a cognitive test.
“Well, I think I’m a lot sharper than her. I would do this: I would sit down right now and take an aptitude test and it would be my result against her result, and she’s not going to win, not gonna even come close to winning,” he said.
On Friday, the former South Carolina governor, who trails Trump by double digits in her state, said both her ex-boss and Biden would use a second turn in the Oval Office as a “taxpayer-subsidized nursing home”.
That came as an interview with the former secretary of state Hillary Clinton – recorded before Biden’s fiery remarks about his memory – drew further attention to the age issue.
Clinton told MSNBC that while Biden’s age is a “legitimate issue”, she advised him to “lean in” to his years of experience.
“I talk to people in the White House all the time, and you know, they know it’s an issue, but as I like to say, look, it’s a legitimate issue,” said Clinton, who lost to Trump in 2016. “It’s a legitimate issue for Trump who’s only three years younger. So, it’s an issue.”
The focus on Biden and Trump’s mental acuity has prompted a debate on what makes a natural verbal stumble and what marks a sign of cognitive decline.
“When I see somebody make a flub on TV, I’m really not all that concerned,” S Jay Olshansky, a researcher on ageing at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told the Associated Press on Saturday. “What science will tell you about flubs is that they’re perfectly normal, and they are exacerbated by stress.”
Some studies suggest that “misnaming” may occur when the brain has names stored by category – including family – or may be phonetic, as when Biden confused France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, with the late French leader François Mitterrand.
“To easily recall names, right in the moment, is the hardest thing for us to do accurately,” Eric Lenze of Washington University in St Louis, who focuses on geriatric psychiatry, told the AP.
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A poll by NBC News last month found that 76% of voters had major or moderate concerns when asked whether Biden has “the necessary mental and physical health to be president for a second term”. Posed the same question about Trump, 48% said they had major or moderate concerns.
Biden’s personal lawyer, Richard Sauber, addressed the concerns in the classified documents report that triggered the current round of debate about mental competence, arguing: “We do not believe that the report’s treatment of President Biden’s memory is accurate or appropriate.”
Sauber accused the special counsel, Robert Hur, of using “highly prejudicial language to describe a commonplace occurrence among witnesses: a lack of recall of years-old events”.
Former attorney general Eric Holder, who served during the Obama administration, posted on X that the commentary in the special counsel’s report on Biden’s document retentions contained “way too many gratuitous remarks and is flatly inconsistent with long standing [justice department] traditions”.
“Had this report been been [sic] subject to a normal [justice department] review these remarks would undoubtedly have been excised,” Holder added.
While Trump may have an edge on Biden in terms of voter confidence in mental acuity, Biden retains a lead in other areas. According to NBC, close to half of voters – 51% – said they had major concerns, and 10% moderate concerns, about Trump’s legal issues.
Topping Trump’s list of legal issues are more than 90 pending criminal charges, including for trying to subvert his 2020 electoral defeat.
Recent Bloomberg polling found that a majority of voters in seven key swing states would be unwilling to vote for Trump if he is convicted of a crime (53%) or sentenced to prison (55%) in one of the four criminal cases against him.