WESTERVILLE, OHIO - OCTOBER 15: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) enter the stage before the Democratic Presidential Debate at Otterbein University on October 15, 2019 in Westerville, Ohio. A record 12 presidential hopefuls are participating in the debate hosted by CNN and The New York Times. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images
Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

A Jimmy Carter remark factors into Democratic debate in Ohio

Westerville, Ohio – A few weeks ago, former President Jimmy Carter captured national headlines when he questioned whether he could have handled White House duties as an octogenarian. 

Speaking at the Carter Center in Atlanta, the Georgia Democrat quipped that he hoped there was an “age limit” and that he didn’t think “I could undertake the duties I experienced when I was president” when he was 80. 

Carter, who is 95, is the longest-lived chief executive in U.S. history and he didn’t tie his remarks to any of specific candidate. But he needn’t remind Democrats that former Vice President Joe Biden, who is 76, and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is 78, would both turn 80 during their terms if elected.

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Those remarks came up near the end of Tuesday’s Democratic debate in Ohio as CNN’s Erin Burnett, one of the debate moderators, pressed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders to reassure voters about his health after suffering from a heart attack two weeks ago.

“I’m healthy, I’m feeling great.” 

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker quickly added, with a laugh, that Sanders also supports medical marijuana. 

“I’m not on it tonight,” Sanders shot back, smiling. 

That aside, Burnett then asked Biden about Carter’s comments. If Carter worried he could do the job, she wondered, “Why are you so sure that you can?”

“Because I've watched it. I know what the job is. I've been engaged,” he said. “Look, one of the reasons I'm running is because of my age and my experience. With it comes wisdom. 

“We need someone to take office this time around who on day one can stand on the world stage, command the respect of world leaders, from Putin to our allies, and know exactly what has to be done to get this country back on track.”

Then came U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who at 71 would be the oldest president ever inaugurated in a first term if she wins. What does she say to voters who think a more youthful candidate is more likely to defeat President Donald Trump? 

“Well, I say, I will out-work, out-organize, and outlast anyone,” she said. “And that includes Donald Trump, Mike Pence, or whoever the Republicans get stuck with.” 

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.