'Biden Bingo': The president's campaign adapts a classic game to include malarkey and aviators

President Joe Biden's campaign is using social events like bingo and pickleball to get older Americans engaged in his quest for a second term

PHOENIX (AP) — DeAnna Mireau reached into a container and fished out a scrap of paper.

“The next one is — do we have a drumroll?" she called out to a room crowded with some two dozen older adults and a half-dozen journalists. "Justice! Justice for all.”

Nobody stirred, so Mireau reached for another scrap. Next was “worker empowerment.” Then “malarkey." Finally, when she called out “folks,” there was a winner.

“Biden Bingo!” came a quiet voice in the middle of the room. A white-haired man straightened his elbow to raise a triumphant fist in the air. The room filled with applause.

With that, 83-year-old Art Winter of Scottsdale, Arizona, became the first victor in President Joe Biden's latest effort to engage older voters in his quest for a second term.

Biden is marrying campaign mainstays like rallies and phone banks with social events like bingo and pickleball to get senior citizens involved in what is likely to be an extremely close election. Older people are more likely to vote than the average American, and many retirees have the free time to volunteer to knock on doors or make phone calls.

Seniors also make up an outsized share of the population in several swing states, including Arizona, a popular retirement destination. Biden narrowly beat former President Donald Trump, again the presumptive Republican nominee this year, by fewer than 11,000 votes here in 2020.

“Bingo and Biden — what a winning combination,” Mireau, the game host, said after it was over. Some of the bingo players lingered to chitchat or eat food provided by the campaign.

Mireau was enlisted to lead the game because she lived in Las Vegas for nine years. She’s also experienced. She leads the bingo games in her Phoenix mobile home park.

“People gathering together of like minds and like goals, we can just generate so much more energy, and it helps us get to the finish line,” said Mireau, who learned about the event through her involvement in the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans, a left-leaning group comprised largely of retired union members.

For his “Biden Bingo” victory, Winter was offered a choice of four prizes. His wife made the pick — several books of crossword puzzles.

The game continued. Just a few drawings later, there was another call of “Biden Bingo.” Another triumphant fist in the air. Winter again. This time, his wife picked an envelope containing a mystery gift card. He set it aside unopened.

“I've never even won a door prize,” he said to his table with a laugh.

The game continued. More scraps of paper pulled from the bin: Election day. Education. Veterans. Aviator sunglasses. Scranton. Expanding Medicare.

Here Mireau interjected. “It will literally save lives, and it could be yours,” she said.

More scraps — and more references to Biden's political persona, some humorous, others serious: Amtrak train. Dr. Jill Biden. American jobs. Working families.

Not one but two bingos were called out now — but not “Biden Bingo” this time. These winners apparently forgot the instruction to announce victory with the president's name, but nobody enforced the rule.

Suddenly out of prizes, but with a bin still teeming with Biden-themed scraps of paper, a campaign aide hurried to fetch some more. She came back with a deck of cards and a few large-print books of word games.

The scraps of paper drew from snippets of Biden's biography and governing priorities. He famously commuted by Amtrak train to the Capitol as a U.S. senator. He sports aviator-style sunglasses on bright days. And he's made “malarkey” into a household word.

Finally, there was just one scrap left.

“Good-paying jobs,” said Mireau, and the room erupted in applause. Everyone had filled their board.

And now it was time for business. Up came an energetic young man who introduced himself as one of the campaign organizers working out of this Democratic field office in an aging office building in midtown Phoenix. He handed out his own scraps of paper — volunteer cards — and urged them to help the campaign by knocking on doors and calling other voters.

Half of adults who are 65 and older have a very or somewhat favorable opinion of Biden, according to a recent AP-NORC poll. Older adults are more likely than those under 65 to have a positive view of the president.

While Biden’s approval has declined during his time in office, it’s had less of a falling off among those who are 65 and older. About half of people 65 and older approved of how Biden was handling his job as president in an AP-NORC poll conducted in March. That’s down slightly from January 2021 when Biden first took office, when about 6 in 10 adults who are 65 and older approved of his performance.

Only about one-third of those under 65 approved of Biden’s job performance in March, which was down from roughly 6 in 10 in January 2021.

In the 2020 election, Biden and Trump split voters who were 65 and older. AP VoteCast data shows that about half of voters who are 65 and older went for Trump and about half went for Biden. Biden won among women and non-white voters who were 65 and older, while Trump won older men and white voters in this age group.

A majority of Americans say they doubt the mental capabilities of the 81-year-old Biden and the 78-year-old Trump. But in a major risk for Biden, independents are much more likely to say that they lack confidence in his mental abilities (80%) compared with Trump's (56%).

Brenda Clarke, a 75-year-old retiree in Tempe, Arizona, said she gets angry when she hears her friends express doubts about Biden's age and blames the media for fanning concerns. She said Biden's supporters need to remind people of his accomplishments.

“The onus is on us to continually call people out when they're trying to propagate that,” said Clarke.

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Associated Press writer Linley Sanders in Washington contributed.