WASHINGTON — In the decades of political life before entering the White House, Joe Biden rarely shied away from leaning into his public persona as an affable everyman more comfortable at Dairy Queen than in the Situation Room. The buttoned-down president, now often seen behind the podium in a suit and tie, is heeding pleas from top advisers to get Biden back into shape, according to multiple people familiar with the conversations.
Biden, these people said, is taking advice from confidants who suggest he try a more casual approach in public, addressing one of voters’ top concerns about his 2024 bid: his age.
That means more casual remarks, unannounced stops at diners and appearances on social media posts and podcasts, and fewer ties and Rose Garden ceremonies. A series of subtle changes, which aides said they suggested to him in numerous conversations over the past few months, are meant to convey that Biden is younger than he suggests at 81 years old.
One of the changes will be on display Friday when Biden visits Pennsylvania. According to the White House, he plans to forego the usual speech to a packed audience and instead make a series of stops at smaller venues. The format allows Biden to connect with voters more organically and directly, aides said.
Biden also adopted the approach this week. After delivery a Speech by Emanuel AAfrican MMethodist Episcopalian the church In Charleston, South Carolina, he changed his suit and tie for an unscheduled stop at nearby Hannibal’s Kitchen. He entered the restaurant wearing a baseball cap, then spent about an hour chatting with patrons, taking selfies and recording an interview with a local radio station.
“I forgot how much I loved it,” according to the campaign’s top adviser.
While it’s often easier to speak informally at some campaign events, Biden is also trying this tactic with official presidential events. for a Speech at the Black Chamber of Commerce in Milwaukee last month, he opted not to wear a tie and added a quick stop at a small establishment before the main event.
Biden’s aides say several factors have prevented him from regularly contacting voters since he took office, including the Covid-19 pandemic, which initially required strict testing protocols and social distancing around the president. According to aides, the president has a heavier layer of security around him than the vice president and less flexibility in his schedule.
But aides say another key factor was Biden’s own vision of the presidency. While he has adopted an informal public approach as a senator, vice president and even presidential candidate, Biden’s tendency since entering the White House is always to appear “presidential,” aides say.
He treats the office with an old-fashioned reverence that aides say has led him to adopt a more traditional and formal style for events both inside and outside the White House.
As 2024 approaches, top Biden allies have begun to change that.
In conversations with Biden last year, a senior campaign official directly argued that the 2024 race offered a chance to reset his public appearances, a person familiar with the discussions said. It could be as simple as a change of clothes or access to a restaurant, said a person familiar with the discussions.
That’s a contrast from earlier in Biden’s presidency, when he was particularly outspoken when faced with questions about what aides called the “age issue.” A top Biden adviser quipped at the time that while building a time machine was short, nothing could change the reality of the nation’s first octogenarian commander-in-chief.
However, the problem persists tries to solve it with jokes or claiming that wisdom comes with age, Biden’s team has come to view his past as a politician whose “Uncle Joe” appeal made him an unlikely sitcom cameo player.
“His superpower is his authenticity,” said another campaign adviser. The adviser stressed that Biden’s re-election bid is trying to show more of that side of him in the 10 months leading up to Election Day.
Describing him as the “ultimate extrovert,” aides hope the effort will give Biden a boost. They say he often leaves a room with more energy than he entered it, and notes that he prides himself on what he describes as a “touchy-feely” politician.
“Campaign Biden is the best Biden,” said Scott Mulhauser, who was Biden’s deputy chief of staff in the 2012 campaign and then vice president. “Moments like this, in particular, are a reminder of how genuine he is, how much he loves connecting with people on the road and discussing the issues that matter, and how big that is for him and for the campaign.”
His experience is sure to be a pillar of his re-election campaign, aides say, as he aims to use that argument and show he still has the strength to serve another term.
Biden’s top aides are also quick to point out the age of his most likely opponent, former President Donald Trump.
“We don’t believe this election is going to be about age,” a top Biden aide said, given that Trump is the front-runner from the Republican Party and is 77 years old. “It would be a conflict of values.”
However, three-quarters of voters said they were concerned about Biden’s age and mental fitness An NBC News poll was published in SeptemberCompared to 47% who are mostly or moderately concerned about Trump’s mental and physical health.
In an interview released Thursday, first lady Jill Biden, the president’s closest adviser, argued that his wisdom and experience should be viewed as an asset.
“I see Joe every day. I see him walking around this country. I see his vitality. I see his energy. “I see his passion every day,” he said. “I say his age is an asset.”