On 7 March 2024, President Biden delivered what might have been his last State of the Union address. The over-hour long, mostly-gaffe proof speech was lauded as proof that the president can perform despite criticisms of his older age, and led to a flurry of op-eds praising his unexpectedly energetic performance (including one in the Wall Street Journal titled, 'State of the Union Shows There's Life in the Old Boy Yet').

The State of the Union address laid out some clues about how Biden intends to go about his 2024 re-election campaign. Here's three key takeaways:

  1. Biden intends to drive turnout by reminding voters of the alternative: Donald Trump. The president referred to "my predecessor" 13 times throughout his address, contrasting his and the former president's policies and approaches. In particular, Biden pointed to differences on democracy and rights at home, such as with the 6 January insurrection and reproductive rights — and abroad, with their support for Ukraine

  2. Middle-class America is a vital audience, and ‘Joe from Scranton’ will tout economic progress under his administration. In his address, Biden mentioned “American workers” or “working families” 19 times, and the “middle-class Americans” a further six times. He emphasised cost-of-living concerns like paid parental leave, student loans, the cost of pharmaceuticals and healthcare, education and employment. With the economy as a top-line concern for 73 per cent of Americans, convincing the public of his economic record and at-home investments in working-class Americans will be front of mind for the Biden campaign.

  3. Confronting the ‘age old’ question head on. A major liability for President Biden seeking a second term is the factor of his age. Seventy-three per cent of Americans think he is too old to be effective now at age 81, and he will be 86 years old by the end of a potential second term. The president did not shy away from aged-based criticisms in his address, stating “My fellow Americans, the issue facing our nation isn’t how old we are; it’s how old are our ideas.” Going forward, we might expect Biden to continue to point to his age as lived experience and to remind Americans that his age has nothing to do with his future-focused vision for the country.