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By way of indirect confirmation, consider that unsuccessful major-party nominees also tend to be fresh faces, though not as reliably as successful nominees. Of 18 failed major-party nominees since 1904 (excluding incumbent presidents), only six were past their 14-year sell date. Fresh candidates are more likely to be nominated, and fresh nominees are more likely to win.
Is it artificial to begin counting with Theodore Roosevelt? I don't think so. Roosevelt was the first modern president, in the sense of winning a national following in his own right rather than being a vehicle chosen by his party. Before him, presidents tended to be either party loyalists with long elective experience, or generals with little or none. Party hacks liked time-servers and white knights. Voters, when they took charge, preferred something in between.
One other objection remains. What if the reason stale candidates don't win is that stale candidates don't run? If the current campaign's expired aspirers are breaking precedent by running, then the past might have little relevance.
No dice. I couldn't check for the whole century (perhaps some ambitious reader can do the spadework), but from 1984 through 2000, nearly half of Democratic and Republican presidential candidates were stale.
For instance, in 2000 I counted 11 Republican presidential aspirants, including several who dropped out early or bolted the party. Five of them had passed their sell-by dates. So had both of the Democratic contenders, namely former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley and Vice President Gore.
In the 1996 race to challenge Bill Clinton, six of the Republican contenders were stale—and the other three had never been elected to anything. The choice was between too much experience and too little. Bad move, Republicans. In 1992, four of seven serious Democratic contenders were stale. Luckily for the Democrats, the nod went to Clinton, who was in his 14th year.
In 1988 and 1984, the Democratic crops were fresher, but the point holds. Lots of stale people run for the presidency. They just don't win.
Reader, I crunched a lot of numbers for this article. Probably a few are wrong. If you find some, please write. The Law of 14, having been only recently discovered by an unnamed political genius and even more recently appropriated by me, is in its earliest, least-tested stage. However, the bottom line won't change: Presidential hopefuls have only about 14 years to make it to the White House.
In fact, I can think of only one case besides Johnson's that challenges the rule: that of George W. Bush. True, his clock had only six years on it when he ran for president in 2000. But he did not win the popular vote. The people's choice, albeit by the narrowest of margins, was Gore, who was past his expiration (though only by two years, having taken 16 to reach the vice presidency from Congress). The 14-year rule held, but thanks to the vagaries of the Electoral College and the Supreme Court.
Democrats, do not take comfort. Next year, Bush will still be only 10 years from his first election as governor of Texas. He'll still be fresh.