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Jim Lane

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Name: Jim Lane
Gender: Male
Hometown: Jersey City
Member since: Fri Nov 12, 2004, 11:22 AM
Number of posts: 11,175

About Me

I spend most of my online time on Wikipedia, where we desperately need more people to help counter right-wing bias. Please PM me whenever you want help with a Wikipedia-related issue. (Remember that Wikipedia material must be neutral, but we can and should include facts that conservatives would prefer to suppress.)

Journal Archives

2016 Democratic nomination: the age factor

In the discussion about 2016 (a discussion some people consider premature but which is inevitable and besides we can have those conversations without thereby ignoring 2014), one factor that’s been mentioned is the ages of some of the prospective Democratic candidates. Just to get a reality-based handle on the subject, I compiled some specifics.

The first chart includes a bunch of Democrats whom I’ve heard mentioned, listed alphabetically by surname, plus the birth date for each. The second chart is the same group, listed by age, plus the age at last birthday as of January 20, 2017. (If anyone wants another name included, let me know and I’ll edit, to have all the information in one place.)

To give some context, the third chart includes the six most recent Presidents, plus a few others, listed chronologically, with age at last birthday as of inauguration. The final chart is our 2008 field, listed by age, plus the age at last birthday as of January 20, 2009.

My comments on the subject follow the last chart.


Chart 1: Possible Democratic nominees, with birth dates
Joe Biden: November 20, 1942
Jerry Brown: April 7, 1938
Sherrod Brown: November 9, 1952
Hillary Clinton: October 26, 1947
Andrew Cuomo: December 6, 1957
Howard Dean: November 17, 1948
John Kerry: December 11, 1943
Martin O’Malley: January 18, 1963
Bernie Sanders: September 8, 1941
Brian Schweitzer: September 4, 1955
Elizabeth Warren: June 22, 1949
Sheldon Whitehouse: October 20, 1955

Chart 2: Possible Democratic nominees, with ages as of January 20, 2017
Jerry Brown, 78 years old
Bernie Sanders, 75 years old
Joe Biden, 74 years old
John Kerry, 73 years old
Hillary Clinton, 69 years old
Howard Dean, 68 years old
Elizabeth Warren, 67 years old
Sherrod Brown, 64 years old
Brian Schweitzer, 61 years old
Sheldon Whitehouse, 61 years old
Andrew Cuomo, 59 years old
Martin O’Malley, 54 years old

Chart 3: Some past Presidents’ ages at inauguration
William Henry Harrison, 68 years old (oldest before Reagan)
Theodore Roosevelt, 42 years old (youngest ever inaugurated)
John F. Kennedy, 43 years old (youngest ever elected)
Jimmy Carter, 52 years old
Ronald Reagan, 69 years old (oldest ever)
George H. W. Bush, 65 years old
Bill Clinton, 46 years old
George W. Bush, 54 years old
Barack Obama, 47 years old

Chart 4: Democratic field from 2008, with ages as of January 20, 2009
Mike Gravel, 78 years old
Joe Biden, 66 years old
Chris Dodd, 64 years old
Dennis Kucinich, 62 years old
Hillary Clinton, 61 years old
Bill Richardson, 61 years old
John Edwards, 55 years old
Barack Obama, 47 years old

As an additional bit of context here, John McCain would have been 72 at inauguration. Other recent unsuccessful candidates: Al Gore would have been 52, John Kerry would have been 61, and Mitt Romney would have been 65 at inauguration.

Overall, the ages of the 2016 Democratic field, particularly those of the candidates at the top in the nebulous “most mentioned” category, are notable. Our candidate pool definitely skews older than it did in 2008.

Clinton, at inauguration, would be several months younger than Reagan was, but older than Harrison was, and would thus be the second-oldest ever. Biden would be the oldest ever, even older than McCain would have been.

Age plays into the race in two ways. The first is whether that person will choose to run. Both Clinton and Biden, the two leaders in polls of Democrats that I’ve seen, will be old by historical standards. Both have also experienced the rigors of a Presidential campaign and have seen at close hand the rigors of serving. Add four years or eight years for age at conclusion of administration. Either or both of them might well think, “I would have been a great nominee and a great President last time around, but at this point, who needs that hassle.”

The second factor is electability. In 2008, although some people thought Obama too young and inexperienced, there were others who thought McCain too old. In 2016, we can expect some partisan hypocrisy on this score. Republicans who supported McCain will argue that Clinton is too old if she’s the nominee, and Democrats who denounced McCain as too old will happily support Biden if he’s the nominee. Leaving aside such partisanship, I expect that many swing voters would have at least some misgivings about an older candidate.

Cutting against both these factors is that age isn’t what it used to be. People live longer and maintain their faculties longer. Those swing voters are likely to be personally acquainted with people in their sixties or seventies who are still quite lively.

Nevertheless, I note that even the youngest prospective candidate on my list (O’Malley, 54 years old on Inauguration Day) would be older than all three of the most recent Democratic Presidents. Even Lyndon B. Johnson, whom I had thought of as older before I did this research, was only 56 when inaugurated in 1965 for his full term. Not since Harry S. Truman (64 when inaugurated in 1949 for his full term) have the Democrats won the election with a candidate who had turned 60.

One possible scenario (among many) is that the leading candidates are Clinton and O’Malley, with O’Malley running to Clinton’s left. O’Malley’s principal appeal would be to Democrats who consider Clinton too corporatist and/or too hawkish. In addition, though, I think he would get some benefit from the age factor. I would still consider Clinton the favorite, but we could expect age to play a role. Age will also be an obstacle for Sanders if he mounts a campaign.

On edit: Added Schweitzer and Dean to the lists.
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