Campaigns/Elections

No Country for Grouchy Old Men?

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reason contributor and Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi looks at the polling data and finds that 5 percent of voters say they won't cast a ballot for an African American, 11 percent won't vote for a woman—and a whopping 42 percent won't vote for a 72-year-old (regardless of race or gender, I'm guessing that elderly Oscar nominee Ruby Dee shouldn't be pondering a White House run anytime soon).

Is Amerika ageist on top of its other sins? Not quite, says Harsanyi:

Fact is, far from being reluctant to elect seniors, voters reliably choose them. Washington, a veritable Gerontocracy, can often resemble a Boca Raton condo association meeting.

Presently there are 26 senators over the age of 70 (23 of them older than McCain). There are six senators in their 80s and 36 in their 60s. Robert Byrd is 90.

Harsanyi also notes that back in 1980 Ronald Reagan, the oldest president ever elected, was just a year younger than McCain is now (and let's face it: 70 is the new 60!). But the reason this col spoke to me is its summary of William Henry Harrison, who was the oldest president before Reagan–and remains the shortest-serving:

At 68, William Henry Harrison was the country's second-oldest president. A war hero, "Granny Harrison," as his opponents called him, was a tough cat. After winning the presidency, he stood outside on a miserably frigid and damp Washington day to deliver the longest inaugural address—more than 8,400 words—in American history. He then joined the inaugural parade. Harrison, naturally, caught a cold, which led to pneumonia. He never recovered and died 31 days into his term.

What's not to like?

Whole col here.

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  1. They may say that they’ll never vote for a 72-year old man, but the question is, do they realize that John McCain is a 72-year old man… or are all of those people polled democrats?

  2. RX Sen. McCain: Take two Bonanzas and a Matlock, and call us in the morning.

  3. How many times did I tell him to dress warmly? But he never listened.

  4. Senators aren’t presidents. For one thing, most Senate seats are safe for the incumbent party, so even people who are uncomfortable with a 79-year-old candidate will pull the lever for him instead of the Republican/Democrat who’s running against him, just on party concerns. And once you become a Senator, you are very unlikely to lose a primary.

    Second, Senators don’t have 24/7/365 command responsibilities.

  5. That 5% is pleasantly surprising!

  6. All other things being equally bad, I’d vote foe the oldest guy just because he’s likely to die sooner and we won’t have pay his presidential pension as long.

  7. McCain isn’t just old–he was also imprisoned for years, plus his injuries on his crash and subsequent torture. That’s gotta take a toll on your body.

  8. I tend to think that the people polled this year heard the choices:

    1. Would you consider voting for an African-American?

    2. A woman?

    3. A Mormon?

    4. A 72 year old man?

    And many respondents who these choices actually were, and answered accordingly.

  9. It makes McCain’s VP pick all that more interesting.

  10. McCain will just get the Swift Boaters to put out a few “scary secret Muslim Obama” ads and it won’t matter.

  11. I’m thinking Jeff Flake would make a good V P.

  12. I’m thinking Jeff Flake would make a good V P.

    Jeff Flake would make a good President.

  13. Cesar,

    Reports of Obama’s demise keep turning out to be premature, no?

  14. I say Condoleza Rice would make a good VP for the Republicans. You’ve got your black voters and your woman voters all wrapped up in one nice, clever package.

    CB

  15. Reports of Obama’s demise keep turning out to be premature, no?

    The turban photo doesn’t remind you of Dukakis-in-a-tank at all?

  16. Reports of Obama’s demise keep turning out to be premature, no?

    It’s almost as if Hillary does not have amazing supervillain powers or something. When it is revealed that she also does not have horns, some people are going to be in for a shock.

  17. BTW, reports of McCain’s demise always turn out to be premature too. Keep that in mind.

  18. At 68, William Henry Harrison was the country’s second-oldest president. A war hero, “Granny Harrison,” as his opponents called him, was a tough cat. After winning the presidency, he stood outside on a miserably frigid and damp Washington day to deliver the longest inaugural address – more than 8,400 words – in American history. He then joined the inaugural parade. Harrison, naturally, caught a cold, which led to pneumonia. He never recovered and died 31 days into his term.

    Incidentally, Harrison was the first of the string of Presidents who, elected in a year ending in 0, died in office.

    This was apparently started by an Native American curse. Not that I believe this, but it was on the History Channel the other day.

  19. Cesar,

    Funny you should mention that – my reaction to the whole imbroglio was “Showing candidates looking silly in strange outfits is always fair game, just like Dukakis in the tank.”

    But just as the McCain/lobbyist story was (almost) completely buried because of the SEX SEX SEX talk, Obama looking silly in that outfit has been buried by the “dirty politics” talk.

    Well said, Episiarch. Not only can she not leap 795 Superdelegates in a single bound, but there appears to be a cloud on her deed to the Democratic Party.

  20. Cesar | February 26, 2008, 10:43am | #

    BTW, reports of McCain’s demise always turn out to be premature too. Keep that in mind.

    No doubt. In any year excecpt 2008, he’d have to be considered the frontrunner.

  21. The photo will be forgotten until around August or September when McCain (or the swift boat people) run an ad with that photo while saying “Can you really trust Barack HUSSEIN Obama to keep us safe in the war on terror? Barack Hussein Obama–a roll of the dice.”

  22. “70 is the new 60.”

    Now you tell me. I thought 70 was the new 30. Grabs disco ball, topples over.

  23. I’m sure they’ll try, Cesar.

    I just don’t think it will work.

    It isn’t October 2001 anymore.

  24. For one thing, most Senate seats are safe for the incumbent party

    A fundamental problem with our republic, I might add…

  25. One thing going for Obama is money. He can run negative ads defining McCain as an insane old kook before McCain can run the “Hussein Obama” ads.

  26. It’s not August 2001, either. Iraq may or may not be critical to this campaign, but the economic situation certainly will be. Obviously, the Democrats will throw “100 years” about and try to focus on the war, but that’s a dangerous tactic if they don’t focus mostly on the economy. My bet is that they’ll make that error, which, compounded with the whole “experience” issue and, perhaps, some racially based voting, makes Obama’s likelihood of winning much smaller than people seem to think.

    Not that I like McCain in the least or think that presidential candidates should go around talking much about the economy, since they can’t do much about it, but that’s the way I see it. With McCain, too, a good VP choice will make all the difference in the general election, especially since that person stands a chance of being president (possibly first term, but I’m thinking that McCain is a one-termer, due to his age and apparent condition).

  27. It’s rarely been the Democrats’ problem that they focus too much on foreign and military policy, and forget to talk about kitchen table issues. Quite the opposite.

  28. The point of publicising the Obama in the turban picture isn’t that he looks silly, but that he looks foreign – and a kind of foreign that his adversaries hope voters will find particularly repellent or terrifying.

    Now, Dukakis in the tank? That’s iconic because he looked so fucking ridiculous. Both images reinforced previous whispering campaigns, but those campaigns were quite different – the difference between fear and derision.

  29. Pro L,

    Actually recent polling shows that the public trust Obama more than McCain on the economy. Besides, all you need to do to get people to trust McCain less with the economy is to loop his “The issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should,” quote from now until election day.

  30. A fundamental problem with our republic, I might add…

    1913 was a REAL bad year for amendments.

  31. I dunno, he looks kinda silly to me, like a geek at a toga party, with the t-shirt and khakis underneath.

    Or at least like those images of Bush in Africa recently where he’s awkwardly dancing and playing drums.

    Contrary to this making Barrack look ‘muslim’, I dare say it makes him look ‘white’

  32. I’m not so sure that what the Clinton campaign’s intent, peachy. Obama doesn’t look comfortable in that get-up. He looks like an American awkwardly playing dress-up, and like a noob to boot. It goes well with the “Obama is a lightweight on foreign policy” message they’ve been putting out lately.

  33. Just stick a “was” in that first sentence. Pretty much anywhere.

  34. “”Cracker’s Boy | February 26, 2008, 10:40am | #
    I say Condoleza Rice would make a good VP for the Republicans. You’ve got your black voters and your woman voters all wrapped up in one nice, clever package.

    CB

    I don’t think so. Her being black has already been spun as ‘Uncle Tom’ because she is a Republican, much like Clarence Thomas was.

    And the woman who got where she is on the coat tails of her man, and by standing by her sexually harassing and raping husband is more of a feminist ideal than the one who got where she is by her own merits, if the former is pro-choice.

  35. Hmm that last comment by me sounded very partisan. And maybe I am.

    I prefer Obama to McCain btw, it that mitigates the partisan hackery at all.

  36. If this hasn’t become obvious yet, polls are next to useless in the primaries. Ask Senator Clinton, who, if you go by polls, won the nomination last year in a landslide. This happens most election cycles, but we keep hearing about polls. No idea why.

    As for what the Democrats run on, joe, you made a lot of hay about the war–as did plenty of Democratic candidates–in the off-term election. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but I predict it’ll be a disaster if that’s the principal course taken this year. Also, what, precisely, is Obama going to do to help? His proposed solutions will require a massive increase in spending, and plenty of people doubt that he’ll really totally withdraw from Iraq, to boot. Which means the spending will be even higher than under Bush. With a likely Democratic Congress to waive him on, that’s a disturbing thought.

  37. Her being black has already been spun as ‘Uncle Tom’ because she is a Republican, much like Clarence Thomas was.

    Ah, but you forget about the “bank-shot pander.” The Republicans don’t put black sewer commissioners and city councillors on the stage at the convention to win over black people. They put them up there to sooth the concerns of white voters who are a little leery of the Republicans’ bone fides on race.

    It doesn’t matter if 100% of black voters think of Rice as an “Uncle Tom,” so long as 5% of white voters can feel confident that they’re not voting for the Southern Strategy party.

  38. Pro Lib,

    IF the Democrats only talk about the war and stop talking about domestic issues, it will indeed be a big mistake. I just think that’s very likely.

    And I don’t think “lots of people” have serious doubts about Obama withdrawing from Iraq.

  39. er, not very likely.

  40. joe,

    You misunderestimate the distrust people have for campaign promises. Of course, the same people simultaneously will vote based on some of those promises. Which is why these polls are such a mess during primary season–minds change on a daily basis, apparently.

  41. McCain should pick Cheney as his VP.
    It worked for Dubya. Call it assassination insurance. Call it impeachment insurance.

    Nobody wants Cheney as president.

  42. Except that then everyone would vote for Obama. And, don’t forget, there’s a small chance that both McCain and Cheney wouldn’t last four years. Then we’d get President Pelosi, if the House doesn’t change hands again.

  43. And if she doesn’t survive, then we’ll have another ex-klansman in office.

  44. NoStar,

    That’s also why Obama should pick Hillary.

    1. She’d make a great attack dog, the traditional role for a running mate.

    2. Heaven forbid there is some sort of disaster, she would know her way around the White House the hour she’s sworn in. No learning curve is especially important in such a situation.

    3. It would unite the party after a tough primary, and

    4. The Klan wouldn’t shoot him.

  45. Joe, I don’t think Obama wants Bill trying to run the White House. Which is what would happen if she were VP.

    Also, what state does she put in play thats not in play without her? The only one I can think of is Arkansas.

  46. I don’t think Obama needs to think about stealing a state. He can actually pick the candidate he thinks would make the best VP.

  47. Joe, its not necessarily stealing a state its about perception. The Republicans are already calling him a “McGovern liberal” and picking Hillary as his VP wouldn’t help that one bit.

  48. Obama is going to try to choose Richardson as his running mate, out of a largely mistaken belief that Hispanics will give a shit.

  49. joe,
    Any president with Hillary as VP might live long enough to serve just over two years, giving HRC a shot at ruling for 10 years in the White House.

    A curious thing about humans: We often become what we protested against in our youth. HRC has become another LBJ, a big government, war-mongering, back-room deal maker who won’t let anything or anyone stand in her way of power.

  50. Sure, NoStar. And she also owns the Democratic Party, and will inevitably be the nominee. Let the conspiracy theories go. It’s better out here, in the sun.

  51. Cesar | February 26, 2008, 1:39pm | #

    Joe, its not necessarily stealing a state its about perception. The Republicans are already calling him a “McGovern liberal” and picking Hillary as his VP wouldn’t help that one bit.

    I don’t think Obama has to base his decision around countering Republican frames, because he’s going to be the one setting the frames.

    On the other hand, I think there’s a pretty good chance McCain will pick a woman as his running mate to try to get in on this “history” thing, and some non-trivial number of women could be swayed by that.

  52. And I don’t think “lots of people” have serious doubts about Obama withdrawing from Iraq.

    So the question is, will he abandon the Iraqis, or abandon his followers?

  53. joe,
    You can take my conspiracy theories when you pry them from my cold dead hands.

    The best part about conspiracy theories is they are cheap to manufacture and sometimes they even mimic the truth, but then YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!

    I think HRC will control the super-delegates and will win the Democrat nomination.

    I also think that McCain will not win in the first round balloting. Once that happens, at brokered convention anything could happen including Newt Ginchich* or even Ron Paul.

    *I am not advocating Newt

  54. Nobody wants Cheney as president.

    “Lawrence Kudlow wrote a column a while back saying he hoped President Bush asked Vice President Cheney to run for president in 2008. It was a fine idea then and it still is – not because the current field is particularly weak, but because Mr. Cheney is so much more experienced and shrewd a figure, one who could help settle some of the arguments about the Bush years in favor of Mr. Bush. A White House aiming to get Mr. Cheney elected could also avoid some of the hazards that befall lame-ducks – drift, brain drain, irrelevance. Such a campaign might lift Mr. Cheney ‘s own standing in the polls.”

    http://www.nysun.com/article/51783

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