THERE was a great photograph published this week of President Joe Biden and his wife Jill visiting Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter at their home in Plains, Georgia.

Given the combined age of the subjects was 336, it could have been an advertisement for some miracle drug that boosts prolonged fitness and longevity.

It was certainly punting something – the idea that President Biden, at 78, is a mere stripling in comparison to Mr Carter, 96. It was significant, too, that Mr Biden should be pictured beside a president whose time in office is now being viewed in a more favourable light.

Carter the loser who presided over the Iran hostage crisis is now being recast as a fundamentally decent man who did his best in impossible circumstances, a visionary whose life after the presidency has been one long illustration of the power of doing good.

There is even a documentary, Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President, in which musicians from Willie Nelson and Dylan to Garth Brooks and Paul Simon, line up to pay tribute.

Not that Mr Biden wants to wait till decades after he leaves office to be recognised for his achievements. The 46th president is a man in a serious rush to get things done, as can be seen from his whirlwind first 100 days.

In being photographed with a president as associated with big government as Ronald Reagan was with small, Mr Biden is once more positioning himself before the American public as a centre left president with radical ambitions to transform the country from the ground up. If you wanted to be truly old school, you might even think the impossible had happened and America had elected its first socialist president.

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Mr Biden got his retaliation in first on that score, as when he recently condemned violent protests and looting and asked the crowd: “Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?”

No, he looks like what he is, an establishment politician, a Washington DC operator from the top of his head to the tips of his manicured fingers. Looks are not everything, though.

On the spending front, certainly, America has not seen anything like this since Franklin D Roosevelt, the president with whom Mr Biden most likes to be associated (no offence to Mr Carter).

A $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to help with recovery from the pandemic, including direct payments of $1400 per person. A $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan stretching to two free years at college and help with childcare.

The sums are almost too big to take in. Equally breathtaking is how Mr Biden intends paying for all this state largesse: not with tax rises across the board, but by targeting the richest one per cent and mega corporations.

“You have 50 corporations making over $40 billion that didn’t pay a single penny in taxes,” he told an audience in Norfolk, Virginia.

“I don’t want to punish anybody but everybody should pay something along the road here.

The choice is about who the economy serves so I plan on giving tax breaks to the working class folks and making everybody pay their fair share.” Can you imagine Rishi Sunak taking such a tack in the Commons?

So far, Mr Biden is enjoying quite the honeymoon period. The FiveThirtyEight website, looking at a raft of recent polls, gives him an approval rating of 53.5%. Donald Trump, in comparison, never got out of the 40s during the same period.

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As with Boris Johnson, Mr Biden is riding high on the success of the vaccine rollout programme. His initial target of 100 million jabs in 100 days was met in just 59 days. He has been as good as his word in coming up with not one but two rescue plans, and in restarting action on climate change.

His vision of a fairer, less racially divided America was helped by the guilty verdict on George Floyd’s killer (ex-police officer Derek Chauvin has since asked for a new trial).

Americans are more optimistic about the future than at any time in the last 15 years. Mr Biden's only real stumble has been failing to raise the cap on the number of refugees admitted to America, and then doing so by far less than he had promised.

With so many indicators looking favourable one might think Mr Biden could relax a little instead of travelling round the country to an extent he never did when the election was in full swing.

But the reasons why he cannot drop the pace are to be found in those same polls charting his popularity. Yes, his approval rating is 53%, but that is a drop of six points in a month.

In another poll, this one by Ipsos for ABC News, 52% backed his tax and spend plans but 47% were against.

Most Republicans, unsurprisingly, are yet to be convinced by Mr Biden. America, in short, remains a nation divided.

Mr Biden is aware that time is not on his side. The mid-term elections, in which all 435 seats in the House are up for grabs, and 34 in the Senate, are a year and a half away. If the balance tips in the Republicans’ favour, President Biden will struggle to get anything done. The Obama example is only too recent and real for the Biden team.

There is a personal, as well as a political, consideration here. Though Mr Biden looks the picture of health and vitality, 78 is still 78. FDR was 51 when he told Americans the only thing they had to fear was fear itself.

Moreover, lest we forget, that man Trump is still out there. This week, still banned by Twitter, he launched a new website with the slogan “Save America”.

The front page is a series of posts, as in a Twitter feed, and the content and tone are familiar. “The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!” was one of several declarations posted last Monday.

He is still fundraising with an eye to helping Trump-backing candidates in the mid-terms, and having another run at the presidency in 2024. Rallies are said to be on the cards again.

President Biden has embarked on a huge gamble, one that could restore faith in government as a means to make lives better, or destroy it for a generation with who knows what consequences. No wonder he is a man in a hurry.