President Biden told a star-studded “Broadway for Biden” campaign fundraising event Monday night that “democracy is at stake” if he isn’t re-elected next year — while trying to slide past the issue of his octogenarian status.
“A lot of people seem focused on my age,” the 80-year-old told audience members who paid between $250 and $7,500 to hear him speak at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. “I get it, believe me, I know it more than anyone.”
The oldest-ever president also slipped in a joke at his own expense, saying he was “more optimistic about the future of this country than in the 800 years I’ve served” — drawing a big laugh from attendees.
But Biden went on to make the case for his re-election, saying he “knew what to do” during the COVID-19 pandemic and promising he “will not side with dictators like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.”
“Maybe Trump and his MAGA friends can bow down, but I won’t,” the president said as he pivoted to attack his predecessor, whom he said he “without question” defeated last time “because of people like you.”
“I’m running because democracy is at stake, because in 2024, democracy is on the ballot once again,” Biden said. “And let there be no question: Donald Trump and his MAGA Republicans are determined to destroy American democracy. And I will always defend, protect and fight for our democracy.”
The president also returned to a theme from his 2020 campaign: That his decision to run for president was spurred by a far-right rally held in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017, which resulted in one death and dozens of injuries after a car rammed into a crowd of protesters.
“I’m running because — hear this — I want the entire nation to join me in sending the strongest, clearest, most powerful message possible that political violence in America is never, never, never acceptable,” he said.
“I don’t believe America is a dark, negative nation, a nation of carnage driven by anger, fear and revenge,” Biden added, referring to his predecessor’s inauguration speech. “Donald Trump does. To his supporters, he says, ‘I am your retribution’ … ‘We’re a failing nation,’ he says. ‘Either they win or we win and [if] they win we no longer have a country.’ Did you ever hear the president of the United States speak like that?”
The fundraiser featured renditions of popular songs from the musicals “Chicago” and “West Side Story” and appearances by Tony Award winners and Broadway bigwigs like “Hamilton” and “In The Heights” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Biden’s speech came as recent polls have highlighted voters’ concerns about the aging pol, who would be 86 years old by the end of his prospective second term.
An overwhelming 77% of US voters believe Biden is too old to serve a second term, according to a recent Associated Press-NORC poll. Two-thirds of Democrats agree that Biden’s age is disqualifying, a Wall Street Journal survey found earlier this month.
A Harvard/CAPS-Harris poll released Monday also found Trump and fellow Republican candidates Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) all beating Biden in head-to-head matchups.
The commander-in-chief fit in his Broadway fundraiser and another event hosted by the Black Economic Alliance before the end-of-third-quarter campaign finance filing deadlines.
Hollywood donors spent big on Biden’s 2020 campaign but some have expressed reservations about the president serving another term.