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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Early Bird Specials at the White House

With the craziness surrounding this year's presidential election, it may have escaped the knowledge of many that it is about old people. Of the three candidates left running, all of them would break or come close to the record for oldest person elected president. Hillary Clinton would be 69 when inducted, about eight months younger than Ronald Reagan was, but still older than William Henry Harrison, who held the record for 140 years and is still best remembered for dying in office after thirty days.

What is a cinch, barring something very strange happening, is that 2016 will shatter the record for oldest combined major party candidates. That's currently a tie (not considering days)--1848 and 1984. In 1848, the oldest Democratic nominee ever (for the nonce) was Lewis Cass, pictured here, a youthful-looking fellow. He was 66, and I always knew him as the only Michigander ever nominated for president until Gerald Ford came along. His opponent was Zachary Taylor, Old Rough and Ready, a war hero who was 63, giving them a combined age of 129. Taylor wasn't much of a president, and he died in office, too, after gorging on cherries and milk (though some think he was poisoned).

In 1984 Reagan, then 73, ran for re-election against the relatively spry Walter Mondale, who was 56, again adding up to 129. Reagan made a joke about it, saying he would not exploit the age issue--Mondale's youth. Reagan won of course, and is still the oldest man ever to occupy the office, leaving when he was 77.

If it is Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump, that record will be shattered. Early in the campaign, some Republicans had the audactity to use age as a detriment for Clinton, even though she is younger than Reagan was at the same stage. But now they can't use it, because Donald Trump will be 70 in June. Presumably he will the third major party candidate for president at that age or older--Reagan and Bob Dole were both 73. But Clinton and Trump's combined age at an induction will be 139.

Now, if Bernie Sanders wins the nomination, records really topple. Sanders would be 75 at the time of the election, thus being the oldest major party nominee ever, and he and Trump would both be in their seventies, unprecendented, for a combined age of 145.

Does this mean anything? I don't think so, other than that people live longer and have more vitality at later ages than ever before. I don't think Clinton and Trump appear their ages (who knows what Trump has done to himself cosmetically) and there was no shortage of young candidates--Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are both 44, close to the youthful record. Clinton and Sanders are the only Democratic candidates who gained any traction, so age wasn't even a consideration (and Jim Webb, who ran for out half an hour, is also over 70).

This appears just to be a quirk, with Clinton having to wait eight years for Obama's presidency to be over, while Trump peaked for a variety of a reasons, none of them I can quite fathom, but I don't think have any of them have to do with age or wisdom. If Clinton does select Sanders as her running mate, their combined ages would be 144 years, which sounds like a record. I did a little sleuthing and couldn't find an older combo. Dole and Jack Kemp were a combined 134 in 1996, Harry Truman and Alben Barkley were a combined 135 in 1948, and Alton Parker and Henry Davis were a combined 132 years (Davis was 80, still the oldest person on a major party ticket). Reagan and George H.W. Bush were a combined 133 years.

So, if Clinton/Sanders were to win, I'm sure their would be plenty of early bird specials at the White House, the DVR would be recording lots of reruns of Matlock, and the presidential limousine would perpetually have a blinker on.


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