This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

As endorsements go, it probably wasn’t the one Joe Biden needed.

Following the President’s disastrous performance in the first debate against Donald Trump, Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post and MSNBC took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to offer a point of comparison for those perturbed about the fitness of the 81-year-old to secure re-election.

She wrote: “Aw, Hindenburg is too old said some Germans before electing a monster.” The reference is to the 1932 German election in which the 84-year-old Paul von Hindenburg ran against Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party.

It perhaps wasn’t the best comparison to reach for, given the incumbent actually did win the election, only to later appoint Hitler as chancellor. When Hindenburg died in office the Nazi leader abolished the office of President and appointed himself head of state, paving the way for the horrors of the Third Reich. So, yeah, not an ideal comparison.

Mr Biden’s performance sparked panic among the Democrats, with talk both open and behind the scenes that he should drop out before the convention. The President was due to meet with representatives on Wednesday to reassure them of his mental and physical fitness.

Perhaps the most damning part of the whole saga is that, despite numerous public gaffes suggesting the Commander-In-Chief may have lost a step, the DNC establishment seemed blindsided by his debate performance. His nomination was a coronation, with no major figures in the party challenging Mr Biden in the primary.

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Those who did challenge him comprised Marianne Williamson, the former Green candidate, conspiracy theorist Robert F Kennedy, venture capitalist Jason Palmer and non-entity Dean Phillips. Others included Vermin Supreme, who wears a wellie boot on his head and campaigned on a platform of zombie apocalypse awareness, anti-abortion activist Terrisa Bukovinac, and the progressive host of online news show The Young Turks, Cenk Uygur, whose run appeared designed to highlight the fact he, despite being an American citizen, could not be President as he was born in Turkey.

Mr Biden would hardly be the only politician to have gone on too long, and it’s perhaps unsurprising that party grandees feel – or felt – unable to urge him gently to step aside. Winston Churchill was re-elected as Prime Minister in 1951 despite the fact he was 77 and had suffered a series of strokes. Just months after the election King George VI had intended to ask him to stand down in favour of Anthony Eden, but the monarch died before he could do so. Mr Churchill eventually resigned in 1955, having suffered a serious stroke two years earlier that left him paralysed on one side.

Winston Churchill was re-elected in 1951 at the age of 77 and struggled with the complications from a series of strokes (Image: Newsquest)
Looking further afield, Boris Yeltsin’s issues with his health and alcoholism likely paved the way for Vladimir Putin, though he had nothing on some of the later Soviet leaders. Yuri Andropov lasted just over a year in the Kremlin before dying of total kidney failure aged 69, while his replacement Konstantin Chernenko governed largely from a hospital bed. Aged 73, he did win a resounding victory in the 1985 Russian Supreme Soviet election but he was quite literally dragged from his deathbed by politburo member Viktor Grishin to cast his ballot and died two weeks later.

Mr Biden is hardly unique among American politicians either. Dianne Feinstein, the senator for California, died in office last year despite oft-repeated concerns about her declining mental faculties, while some contend Ronald Reagan was suffering from dementia during the second term of his presidency.

Calls for Ruth Bader Ginsburg to retire as a Supreme Court justice while Barack Obama was in office to appoint a liberal replacement were dismissed in many quarters as sexism, Donald Trump became president and appointed three conservative judges who overturned Roe vs Wade and ruled he’s immune from prosecution for ‘official acts’ while in office. Strom Thurmond, the senator for South Carolina, remained in office until the age of 100 despite being an ardent segregationist and it must be said that Mr Trump himself, frequently rambling and forgetting names, doesn’t strike one as the picture of mental fitness.

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It's often said that all political careers end in failure, an idiom coined by one Enoch Powell whose own parliamentary career didn’t come to an end until nearly 20 years after his infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech – many would argue that was 19 years too long.

It remains to be seen whether Mr Biden will be given a gentle tap on the shoulder and eased aside, but if he goes on to contest and lose to Mr Trump, the Hindenburg comparison may well become far more apposite.