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Mon Jul 7, 2014, 02:27 PM


2016 Democratic nomination: the age factor

Last edited Mon Jul 7, 2014, 04:12 PM - Edit history (2)

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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Reply 2016 Democratic nomination: the age factor (Original post)
Jim Lane Jul 2014 OP
bklyncowgirl Jul 2014 #1
Jim Lane Jul 2014 #3
mylye2222 Jul 2014 #2
Jim Lane Jul 2014 #6
MineralMan Jul 2014 #4
Jim Lane Jul 2014 #5
treestar Jul 2014 #7

Response to Jim Lane (Original post)

Mon Jul 7, 2014, 03:03 PM

1. We got us a bunch of long-in-the-toothers, that's for sure.

I tend to think that among Democrats ex governors make better presidents; FDR, Clinton for example. The good ones know how to do the business of government and make it work, something that's been a challenge for the Obama administration.

Of the three governors the most accomplished IMHO is Jerry Brown, the guy who straightened out California's budget nightmare. America needs a turn-around artist. Unfortunately, he's also the oldest. I doubt he'll go for it.

I just can't get excited about Andrew Cuomo but at least he's young enough to do the job and he seems fairly competent maybe a bit too corporate for my taste but compared to any Republican he has my vote. I don't know much about O'Malley, once again he seems fairly competent, a nice vanilla type of Democrat. As for those not mentioned, I have to admit that I rather like Brian Schweitzer on some issues but he does seem to suffer from foot in mouth syndrome. Unless he can learn to engage brain before opening mouth he's not going to make it. Another ex-gov that I absolutely love is Howard Dean, also getting up there in years, unfortunately.

Of the Senators, I love Bernie Sander's politics, he has some administrative experience too as mayor of Burlington but like Brown his age gives me pause. I like Warren a great deal but she's also no spring chicken, likewise Joe Biden. Hillary Clinton is Hillary Clinton. If she's the democratic nominee I'll vote for her. I'd rather see someone else closer to my own politics but who that someone might be is hard to see. We need the youth vote--someone with hair that is (naturally) some color other than gray might help a little there.

I guess the only thing that I can say is that at least I can look at the Republicans and find it hard to see how any of those clowns could beat (as the old horse racing saying goes) a fat person running downhill.

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Response to bklyncowgirl (Reply #1)

Mon Jul 7, 2014, 04:06 PM

3. Thanks for your response! I'll edit to add Schweitzer and Dean.


I should have thought of Brian Schweitzer (will be 61 years old as of January 20, 2017), who's attracted some attention. Howard Dean (will be 68 years old) hasn't been mentioned much.

Jerry Brown has been a successful Governor of the largest state. He was re-elected in 2010 with a margin of more than 1.3 million votes. Just on those facts, one would expect him to be almost automatically a part of the conversation about 2016. I think the only reason he isn't is his age. I agree with you that he's very unlikely to run.

Incidentally, it's worth noting that Brown, currently 76 years old, is already almost as old as Hillary Clinton will be at the end of her administration if she's elected and serves two terms. (As of January 20, 2025, when President Clinton completes her second term and attends the inauguration of one of the Castro brothers, she will be 77.) Although I'm unhappy with Brown about fracking, he does illustrate the point that age isn't what it used to be.

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Response to Jim Lane (Original post)

Mon Jul 7, 2014, 03:46 PM

2. John Kerry has already said twice


That he has no plans to seek any nomination or any elected term after his tenure as SoS.

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Response to mylye2222 (Reply #2)

Mon Jul 7, 2014, 04:55 PM

6. Plans can change.


Nevertheless, I agree that Kerry is unlikely to run. Mainly, I included him because I thought some people might be wondering how old he'll be.

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Response to Jim Lane (Original post)

Mon Jul 7, 2014, 04:11 PM

4. Who would you suggest as alternative, younger candidates?

That seems to be the question, really? Who has the necessary name recognition and capabilities?

We're not going to get anywhere if there's nobody anyone can name as a candidate who meets the youth requirement.

So, what's next?

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #4)

Mon Jul 7, 2014, 04:52 PM

5. My main purpose was to compile data, not to make recommendations.


With “age factor” as a kind of miasma hanging over 2016, I felt a need for some specifics. I posted in case others found the data informative. I think age will be something of a problem for us, but that doesn’t mean I’m shouting “Never trust anyone over 60.” Cuomo is the second-youngest prospect but I would rather see anyone else on the list as President.

You’re right, though, that the Democratic Party can’t just pull a name out of a hat. Someone must be willing to make the run and must have the qualities to win the nomination (some related to being a good President and some not).

In my reply to bklyncowgirl I made a joking reference to the Presidential possibilities of the Castro brothers. Either of them (42 years old next Inauguration Day) would be the youngest President ever. Furthermore, by my subjective rating, neither would have the experience of John F. Kennedy when he became the youngest ever elected. (As of Inauguration Day: Kennedy - six years in the House and eight years in the Senate; Joaquín Castro - ten years in the state legislature and four years in the House; Julián Castro - eight years on the city council, five years as Mayor, and two years as HUD Secretary assuming he’s confirmed this year). Either of them could be considered for Vice President but probably not the top of the ticket.

As you note, name recognition is important. At this point, what is the likelihood that the Democratic nominee will be someone who’s not on this list (especially now that I’ve added Schweitzer and Dean)? I’d say it’s a slim chance. There aren’t that many other people who could mount a credible campaign. Admittedly, someone like Charlie Crist or Tim Kaine might surprise us, but as of now they’re not on the radar.

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Response to Jim Lane (Original post)

Mon Jul 7, 2014, 04:58 PM

7. Hillary would be even with Reagan

And medical science is better now. However, Reagan did seem to have dementia. But that could be cleared as a diagnosis perhaps. This list makes me want O'Malley to run.

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