Must Be 14 Or Under to Become President

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New at Reason: Jonathan Rauch has a diabolically clever theory to handicap the 2004 election.

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  1. Is it 14 years from when you win a major office, or 14 years when you first run for major office? If it is the former then Lyndon LaRouche still has a chance.

  2. Looks like we won’t have President Ron Paul (first elected to the House in the 70’s, returned in the 90’s). Alas…

    Apparently all but one President has held at least one of the following offices prior to becoming President: VP, Governor, Senator, General, or member of the President’s Cabinet. House just isn’t good enough.

    The one exception? Lincoln, who served in the House but no higher office (not often mentioned is the fact that he lost his legendary Senate race against Douglas).

    Anyway, I just head this from someone who’s pretty good on trivia. Those who care can check out some page with Presidential bios. (I’m sure the White House has something like that.)

  3. The highest Hoover got was Secretary of Commerce.

  4. Ooops! I skipped the mention of President’s cabinet

  5. Thoreau,

    Interesting you should mention Abe Lincoln as one who served in the House, and was later elected President.
    Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846, and elected President in 1860 – exactly 14 years.
    While no candidate since him has gone straight from the House to the White House, a number of 3rd Party candidates for President had previously served in the House without further success:
    James B. Weaver (Populist, 1892); William Lemke (Union Party, 1936); John Schmitz (American Independent, 1972)John Anderson (National Unity, 1980) and Ron Paul (Libertarian 1988).
    Also, William Jennings Bryan was never elected to anything other than the House of Representatives.

  6. This is awfully close to reading bird entrails, given the name of the website/magazine/institute.

  7. I’d prefer to not read Robert Byrd’s entrails 😉

    But seriously, the biggest problem with the theory is the way it has to be massaged to deal with Nixon. It would be better to just observe “statistically it is very uncommon to first win the Presidency of Vice-Presidency more than 14 years after first winning major office.” Massaging it for Nixon (“Well, the clock is reset…”) is hocus-pocus.

    There could still be something to this observation. Maybe it’s that too many years in the public spotlight makes you stale and/or creates too long of a trail, too much baggage, and too many enemies. Or maybe the people with the skill and charisma to win Presidential races are naturally rapid achievers.

  8. Where’s some anon poster to trot out the old “correlation does not equal causation” phrase?

  9. Correlation does not equal causation, Steve. Happy?

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