Front-runner Joe Biden, during Thursday’s Democratic debate in the 2020 White House race, accidentally called his opponent Bernie Sanders “the president,” amid recent questions about his age and mental clarity.
“The president, or my friend from Vermont,” Biden said of Sanders as he and the Vermont senator traded barbs on health care costs.
The slip of the tongue came shortly after former Obama housing secretary Julián Castro alluded to speculation about the 76-year-old Biden’s mental acuity during a different exchange about health care. When Biden denied that his health plan required people to buy into Medicare, Castro exclaimed, “Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?”
In a post-debate interview, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker laid into Biden as well, saying there were many people concerned about Biden’s ability to carry the ball “across the end line without fumbling.”
Biden’s lead among Democratic voters has remained relatively steady, as he and senators Sanders and Elizabeth Warren increasingly emerge as a distinct top tier in the large field, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll.
The poll showed Biden favored by 29 percent of registered Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents, with Sanders at 19% and Warren, who has been surging, at 18%.
The survey of registered voters was conducted for four days through Thursday — the day when Biden’s age and energy levels came under their most direct attack yet from any of his Democratic rivals.
Age has been an unavoidable issue in the Democrats’ campaign to unseat the 73-year-old Donald Trump.
Biden is 76, with a longtime reputation for frequent verbal gaffes. He recently told a moving anecdote about pinning a medal on an Afghan war hero but got multiple details wrong.
Sanders turned 78 a few days ago, and Warren is 70.
Many of their Democratic rivals are of much younger generations, as they are quick to point out.
Senator Kamala Harris (fourth in the Post poll, at seven percent) is 54; Pete Buttigieg (fifth, at four percent), is a mere 37.
Ironically, the favored candidate among voters aged 18-49 was the oldest Democrat, Sanders, at 26%. But Biden was not far behind, at 22%, a small gap within the poll’s 6-point margin of error.