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President Joe Biden, dogged by questions about his sanity, has privately acknowledged that the next few days are a crucial test for his re-election campaign, CNN reported earlier this week.

He has publicly stuck to his word and insisted he will stay in the race. But if he ultimately makes that decision, he wouldn’t be the first president to step down rather than run for re-election.

More recently, in 1968, Lyndon B. Johnson stunned the nation when he made the surprise announcement that he would not run for reelection at the end of an Oval Office speech on his plan to limit U.S. military operations in Vietnam. Here is an excerpt from that speech:

With America’s sons in the fields far and wide, with the future of America challenged right here at home, with our hopes for peace and those of the world hanging each day in the balance, I do not believe that I should devote one hour or one day of my time to any personal partisan cause or to any duty other than the awesome duties of this office—the office of President of your country. Accordingly, I will not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.

about 60 years old When he gave this speech, Johnson looked quite old. He died of a sudden heart attack in 1973 at age 64, before eligibility for retirement programs like Medicare, which he signed into law, and Social Security, which he expanded.

By the time Johnson dropped out of the race, unlike Biden, he was facing multiple challengers for the Democratic nomination in the spring of 1968. Racial strife in the US, along with a country divided over the war in Vietnam, hurt Johnson’s popularity. In early 1968, the Tet Offensive in Vietnam showed that communist forces there were far stronger than the US military had claimed, and the war led to rising American casualties.

Read more about Johnson’s decision not to run for a second term.


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