Democrat Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) appeared to soft-pedal her ally Joe Biden's re-election ambitions in a recent interview, saying his age is not a "positive thing."
"Is age a positive thing for him? No," Pelosi told the New York Times.
Pelosi said there are "other great candidates" besides 80-year-old Biden, who became the oldest president in American history last year.
"I think we have other great candidates when the time comes," she said.
Despite the candid remarks, Pelosi, 82, also said that Biden has done a "great job," echoing past comments in which she all but endorsed his re-election.
"He has just done so many things that are so great," Pelosi said in November. "He's put money in people's pockets, vaccines in their arms, children back to school, people back to work — for starters."
Pelosi's comments come amid a classified document scandal that has cast a shadow over Biden's re-election campaign, while testing the loyalty of embarrassed partisan allies.
One factor in Biden's favor is a lack of compelling alternatives: if he does not run, the top-rated choice among Democratic primary voters is Kamala Harris, who is even more unpopular than her boss and arguably even more incoherent, despite being decades younger.
Biden has not infrequently called Harris "president" by mistake, but Democrats are said to be anxious about her competence. The Washington Post interviewed "more than a dozen Democratic leaders in key states" who expressed doubts about her "basic political skills."
The sources told the paper that Democrats are "unpersuaded that she has the force, charisma and skill to mount a winning presidential campaign."
Echoing Pelosi, Biden has also said his age is a "legitimate" concern and that he could "drop dead tomorrow," but he has signaled he intends to run again.
“And I think the best way to make the judgment is to watch me. Am I slowing up? Do I have the same pace?” he told MSNBC last year.
In that same interview, Biden drew headlines for an unnerving pause that lasted several seconds, adding to concerns many voters have about his mental competence.
Biden has been slipping in the polls behind rival Donald Trump, who remains the only declared 2024 candidate. A new Harvard CAPS / Harris Poll found Trump leading his historically unpopular rival by five points.