Valid criticism or not, age is a major undercurrent to arguments against two of the leading Democratic 2020 candidates, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. This week, the septuagenarian pair attempted to dispel concerns about their ages — 77 and 76, respectively — and exhibit their remaining youthful vigor by challenging 73-year-old President Trump to feats of human performance.
On Tuesday, Biden said that if Trump attacked his age, he would say, “‘Come on Donald, come on man. How many push-ups do you want to do here, pal?’ Jokingly.” In the past year or so, Biden has twice indulged schoolyard fantasies of beating up Trump. “He’s the bully that used to make fun when I was a kid that I stutter, and I’d smack him in the mouth,” he said earlier this month. In March 2018, Biden said that “if we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him” for disrespecting women. Keeping the discourse mature, Trump said: “ I would kick his ass. He’d be easy.” (The Cut wrote at the time: “71-Year-Old Tells 75-Year-Old That He Could Kick His Ass.”)
Campaigning as a peace candidate, Bernie Sanders responded to concerns about his age on Tuesday by challenging Trump to a mile footrace. Unlike Biden and Trump’s posturing routine, Sanders could actually back up the talk: Sanders claims he ran a 4:37 minute mile in high school, and he came in third at the 1957 Brooklyn Public Schools Athletic League Track and Field Championships.
It’s unclear if this trend will continue — it certainly didn’t work in 2015 when Rick Perry responded to Trump’s claim he lacked “brainpower” by challenging him to a pull-up contest. But if a third-tier candidate needs to create momentum, they could pressure Trump with a more outlandish contest, like a binder-throwing duel. Or to “meet [him] on that field” in a battle of love versus fear harnessed for political purposes. A noted fan of ultimate dueler Andrew Jackson, Trump would all but have to accept these offers.