August 3, 2021 - 3:00pm

President Biden was sworn in this year at the age of 78. He is older at the start of his first term than Ronald Reagan was at the end of his second. 

Assuming his continued good health, then on 20 November next year Biden will become America’s first octogenarian president. However, the good health of a man his age cannot be assumed — which is why the idea of him running for a second term has always appeared a dicey proposition. 

Who might the Democrats run in his place? The obvious candidate is the Vice President, Kamala Harris, and by 2024 no one will have more in the way of relevant experience.

One problem though: she’s remarkably unpopular. According to YouGov polling for the Economist, Harris’s ratings are already in negative territory — i.e. more Americans view her unfavourably (48%) than favourably (43%). That’s bad for so early a stage in a new administration, and in contrast to the President’s own ratings.

Why is his Veep doing noticeably worse? Some might blame sexism or racism, but prejudice didn’t stop Barack Obama from becoming president nor Hillary Clinton from winning the popular vote. One might also look at Harris’s abysmal performance in the race for the Democratic nomination last time round, and conclude that voters just don’t like her very much. 

So what do the Democrats do in 2024? The party establishment knows very well that passing over a highly qualified non-white woman for the job will not look good. They’ll also worry that leaving the race wide open would give their radical wing a chance of taking the nomination (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will be old enough to run).

Whether they fix it for Kamala Harris or leave it to chance, there’s a nightmare scenario in which an unpopular Democrat loses to a resurgent Donald Trump — or one of his children.

However, there is one way for the Democrats to avoid their succession dilemma — and that’s not having a succession at all. Whatever you think of Joe Biden, he’s a proven election winner. So if he gets through his first term in one piece, the path of least resistance is to have him go for a second, and to enjoy a second inauguration, aged 82.

Indeed, Biden — who hasn’t survived this long in politics for nothing — may have had this scenario in mind when he picked Harris as his running mate. He may be an old fox, but he’s a wily one.