Biden has his annual physical exam. The results will be closely watched amid his reelection bid

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BETHESDA, Md. — President Joe Biden spent about 2 1/2 hours at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Wednesday for an annual physical that will be closely watched as the 81-year-old president seeks reelection.

The oldest president in U.S. history, Biden would be 86 by the end of a second term, should he win one. After his last exam, performed in February 2023, doctors declared Biden “healthy, vigorous” and “fit” to handle his White House duties.

But voters are approaching this year’s election with misgivings about Biden’s age, having scrutinized his gaffes, his coughing, his slow walking and even a tumble off his bicycle.

The White House said it will release a written summary of the “routine” checkup later in the day.

Former President Donald Trump, 77, is the favorite to lock up the Republican nomination later this month, which would bring him closer to a November rematch against Biden. Trump was 70 when he took office in 2017, which made him the oldest American president to be inaugurated, until Biden broke his record by being inaugurated at 78 in 2021.

A recent special counsel’s report investigating Biden’s possession of classified documents repeatedly derided Biden’s memory, calling it “hazy,” “fuzzy,” “faulty,” “poor” and having “significant limitations.” It also noted that Biden could not recall defining milestones in his own life such as when his son Beau died or when he served as vice president.

Still, addressing reporters the evening of the report’s release, Biden said “my memory is fine” and grew visibly angry as he denied forgetting when his son died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46.

Testing of memory and cognitive skills are not usually part of routine physicals like the one Biden is underdoing.

His last physical showed that the president had a lesion removed from his chest over the previous year, but the results then otherwise largely matched the findings after Biden’s previous exam in November 2021. That report said his occasional coughing was due to acid reflux, while his stiffened gait was the result of spinal arthritis, a previously broken foot and neuropathy in his feet.

The White House also announced last summer that Biden had begun using a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine at night to help with sleep apnea — which could be reflected in the final report his doctors will release on Biden’s physical on Wednesday.

The president had a colonoscopy in 2021, in which a 3 millimeter “benign-appearing polyp” was identified and removed. In 1988, Biden had surgery to repair two brain aneurysms, which are weak bulges in arteries, and one of them leaking, but subsequent examinations have never revealed evidence of recurrences.

Many Americans, including Democrats, have expressed reservations about Biden seeking a second term during this fall’s election. Only 37% of Democrats say Biden should pursue reelection, down from 52% before the 2022 midterm elections, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Biden counters that his age brings wisdom, and he has begun to criticize Trump for the former president’s recent public gaffes. Biden joked that his age was classified information and suggested during a taping in New York on Monday of “Late Night With Seth Meyers ″ that Trump mistakenly called his wife Melania, “Mercedes” during a weekend speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference — though the Trump campaign says he was correctly referring to political commentator Mercedes Schlapp.

Trump has indeed had his own share of verbal miscues, mixing up the city and state where he was campaigning, calling Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán the leader of Turkey and repeatedly mispronouncing the militant group Hamas as “hummus.” More recently, he confused his Republican primary rival Nikki Haley with former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

While he was president, Trump’s annual physical in 2019 revealed that he had gained weight and was up to 243 pounds. With his 6-foot, 3-inch frame, that meant Trump’s Body Mass Index was 30.4. An index rating of 30 is the level at which doctors consider someone obese under this commonly used formula.

Polls have shown reluctance among voters for Trump to face Biden again in November — but that hasn’t stopped either from closing in on their party’s nominations.

Trump won Michigan’s Republican primary on Tuesday and Biden easily clinched the state’s Democratic one. But an “uncommitted” campaign organized by activists disillusioned with the president’s handling of Israel’s war in Gaza exceeded 100,000 votes, or more than 13% of those cast — a potential source of embarrassment for Biden’s reelection campaign.

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Weissert reported from Washington

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