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New questions about President Biden's age have some Wisconsin voters worried

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

President Biden is once again having to answer questions about his age following the release of Special Counsel Robert Hur's report last week. It did clear Biden of criminal action over the handling of classified documents, but in the report, Hur said that Biden comes off as a, quote, "well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory." That made all kinds of headlines. It led Biden to defend himself at a press conference. So how concerned are voters about his age? Well, we are going to consider that question in the swing state of Wisconsin, where Maayan Silver, from member station WUWM in Milwaukee, is covering the election. Hey there.

MAAYAN SILVER, BYLINE: Hey.

KELLY: So last time around, Biden beat Trump by just over 20,000 votes there in Wisconsin, not a huge margin. This year could be close again. Start with conservatives in that state, in your state, how they are handling the conversation around age. And I'll point out, Trump is only four years younger than Biden.

SILVER: Right. Well, what's not surprising is that there are a lot of conservatives in Wisconsin on Twitter, on right-wing talk shows going after Biden for his age. But Mary Louise, what's interesting is that I talked to a number of conservatives who are concerned about Biden's age, but at the same time feel that Trump is unfit for office and don't want him as their party's nominee. Take, for example, John Wirth. He's a conservative lawyer from a Milwaukee suburb.

JOHN WIRTH: Well, I'm caught between a rock and a hard place. I've been very concerned about Joe Biden and his mental acuity. On the other hand, we can decide to bring back another old man, a fake Republican who has proven to be an immoral, dishonest, power-hungry authoritarian.

SILVER: So it's pretty clear he's not into Trump. Wirth said he'd support Nikki Haley if she's the nominee, but if the choices mirror those in 2020, he'll consider voting for Biden or a third party candidate.

KELLY: And then what are you hearing on this whole issue of age, mental acuity and so on? What are you hearing from Democratic voters who, after all, are the people who Biden will need to mobilize this year?

SILVER: So some Democrats I talked to here say that Hur's comments about Biden's age were out of line. They know Trump, the GOP frontrunner, can also flub words. But young progressives are taking issue with Biden not because of the president's age, but because of the war in Gaza. Nada Moubarek is a 22-year-old college student in Milwaukee. She voted for Biden in 2020 as a way to prevent four years - another four years under Trump. But that's not her plan this year.

NADA MOUBAREK: I'm not voting for anyone. I'm going to build networks within my community and build relationships within my community, and together we're going to find a solution to whatever's going on.

SILVER: While some on the left may not vote, others are still supporting Biden, even though they're not very excited about it. Daniela Perez is a 32-year-old small business owner in Milwaukee.

DANIELA PEREZ: It's just sad because I feel like there's a lot of people on the same boat of just like, we don't really have a choice.

SILVER: Her biggest concern is not the president's memory. She thinks leaders in Washington just don't grasp the daily struggles of working people.

KELLY: Just briefly, talk to me about voter turnout, what both parties there are doing to try to get people excited enough to head to the polls.

SILVER: Both parties are mobilizing voters all around the state. Democrats really need to drive up turnout and numbers in Milwaukee and Madison, talk up things like Biden's infrastructure plan and keep abortion rights on the ballot. Republicans are also focusing on Milwaukee. That's where they'll hold their party's national convention this summer, so they'll really have a big platform to connect with voters here.

KELLY: Thank you, Maayan.

SILVER: Thank you.

KELLY: That's Maayan Silver from member station WUWM in Milwaukee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Maayan Silver
Maayan Silver has been a reporter with WUWM's News Team since 2018. She joined WUWM as a volunteer at Lake Effect in 2016, while she was a practicing criminal defense attorney.