Joe Biden, the oldest elected US president ever, celebrates his 78th birthday on Friday.
If he decides to run and be re-elected in 2024, he will turn 86 years old by the end of his second term in 2029.
Two months before he received the keys to the Oval Office, questions began to arise in Washington: Will he be the president of one state?
Throughout his campaign against Donald Trump, Biden, described by former president Barack Obama as “the lion of American history,” has been deliberately reticent in disclosing his future plans.
When asked by “ABC News” in August whether the idea of holding the presidency for an eight-year term was on the table for him, Biden replied: “Absolutely”.
But before that, in April, during a fundraising event, he told donors that he considered himself a “transitional candidate” a phrase that caught attention and sparked speculation.
Was he trying to say that he was the best to turn the page on Trump’s stage, given his decades of political experience and due to his sympathetic nature, and then hand over the banner to a new generation of Democrats in 2024?
It goes without saying that many of the party’s shiny new faces were not alive when Biden was first elected to the US Senate in 1972.
Or was he simply talking about transition in its broadest sense, without intending to talk about any future outlook?
A few days after securing his victory in the presidency against Trump, Biden’s sister Valerie, who has played a major role in his political career but has generally remained out of the limelight, expressed confidence that he would seek re-election.
So what did he mean by saying he was a “transitional candidate”?
Valerie told the “Axios” program, “It is my transition because it brings all these young people and brings us back together so we will not be a divided country”.
Above all, however, Biden is clearly trying to preserve maximum political balance going forward.
Nobody can run for the White House and openly say they do so for one term. This would weaken his position and open the door – very quickly and on a large scale – to an all-out succession battle within the party.
Presidential historian Julian Zelizer, a professor at Princeton University, says Biden reaps no “value” if he clarifies his plans too soon.
“In this era of polarization, you need to use whatever strengthens your position – including the threat of reelection – to trigger the bills,” Zelizer told AFP.
In American history, very few presidents have held back from running for a second term.
James Polk, who served from 1845 to 1849, campaigned on the grounds that he would never run again – and he kept his word. But politics in the mid-nineteenth century hardly resembled the circus running in Washington today.
The only example in modern US history is Lyndon Johnson, who entered the White House in 1963 when JFK was assassinated.
Johnson easily won his tenure in the 1964 election against Republican Barry Goldwater, but in March 1968, with the American people upset over the Vietnam War and the progressive Democrats challenging him, he said he would not run again.
Many observers say Johnson withdrew as he was facing definite defeat.
But his decision to leave the White House after six years in power was a political defeat, in the words of a Democratic lawmaker from his native Texas.
In addition to the thirst for power and prestige of office, why are American leaders so eager to stay for eight years?
“The second term gives the president a sense of legitimacy,” says Zelizer. ..It is also the right time to pursue difficult political initiatives without electoral pressure.
Biden, of course, knows he is in a difficult position.
In the fall of 2018, before even announcing his third run for president, he admitted to a crowd during a meeting in Michigan that raising the issue of his life was “totally legitimate”.
“I think it’s perfectly appropriate for people to look at me and say if I’m going to run for office again, well, God be upon you, you’re old,” he said.
“Well, in terms of number of years, I am old,” he added, explaining that he considers age to be just a number and that he is still full of energy and keen on thinking.
One thing is clear: When he takes office January 20, Biden’s Republican opponents – and hopefuls in his Democratic party – will listen carefully to what he says on the subject.
They will await the slightest hint of possible retirement from the man who, in November 2022, will become the first president in office to turn 80s in US history.