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Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.

One prominent Democrat says the lingering question is can a nearly 80-year-old person "process" multiple major issues like the pandemic, a sagging economy, an ascendant China and pesky Russia?

The acid test, this Democrat said on the condition of anonymity, was whether Biden could ace a Rose Garden news conference.

  • His Dec. 22 press conference in Wilmington, Delaware, suggested he could pull it off, if prepped and rested.
  • Biden opened up with about 14 minutes of remarks read from a massive teleprompter. But then he closed his book and faced nearly 20 questions, gaffe-free and with several clever turns of phrase.

What to watch: The Biden White House will use the cover of coronavirus precautions to greatly curtail his freelance moments and access to him. Truth is, he’s a 78-year-old, high-risk American, so it isn't just good politics but good policy.

Go deeper

Biden embarks on a consequential presidency

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Donald Trump tried everything to delegitimize the rival who vanquished him. In reality, he's set Joe Biden on course to be a far more consequential U.S. president than he might otherwise have become.

The big picture: President Biden now confronts not just a pandemic, but massive political divisions and an assault on truth — and the aftermath of the assault on the Capitol two weeks ago that threatened democracy itself.

First-time homebuyers shrink as prices spike

Data: National Association of Realtors; Chart: Axios Visuals

Home sales cooled as prices continued to heat up in August.

Driving the news: The share of first-time existing homebuyers (29%) last month was the smallest in two years, according to new data from the National Association of Realtors.

Mike Allen, author of AM
48 mins ago - World

Airbnb doubles number of Afghan refugees it will house to 40,000

Afghan refugees arriving at Dulles International Airport in Virginia in August 2021. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky and co-founder Joe Gebbia said during a visit to Washington on Wednesday that they're offering temporary housing to 40,000 Afghan refugees worldwide, doubling a previous commitment.

The big picture: The housing typically lasts several weeks, and Airbnb and Airbnb.org provide subsidies to hosts.