I think that Eisenhower and Reagan probably would have been tempted to seek a third term, if possible. They both had health problems during their Presidencies, but I could see Eisenhower seeking a third term anyway. He had a difficult time stepping away, which is one reason why he waited so long to give Richard Nixon a solid endorsement in 1960. It wasn’t necessarily a lack of confidence in Nixon’s abilities, but partly because Ike felt that he (Ike) was still the best man for the job.
Reagan, like Clinton, loved being President, too. But when Reagan left office in 1989, he was about two weeks away from his 78th birthday and, according to his official biographer, Edmund Morris, there were signs that he may have been facing the early stages of his Alzheimer’s in the last few weeks of his Administration. Since President Reagan looked relatively healthy and definitely looked fit for his age, it’s difficult for people to realize that he was almost a full eight years older than Eisenhower (70) was when Ike left office. Even if Eisenhower had served another term, Ike still would have been four years younger than Reagan at the end of that third term. I think Reagan’s age and deteriorating health would have prevented him from a third term if it was Constitutionally possible. As closely as his public image was protected by Nancy Reagan, there is no way she would have stood by while he hung on for another term and publicly started to suffer from serious Alzheimer’s symptoms.
An interesting thing is that, if they had the opportunity to run for a third term and their health allowed it, I think Eisenhower, Reagan, and Clinton all would have been easily elected to another term. I think George W. Bush would have had a much more difficult time with seeking a third term, if possible. However, I don’t think Bush would have run again even if he was Constitutionally eligible. In those last few months of 2008, President Bush looked SO ready to get back to Texas. Even if his chances of being re-elected were positive, I still think he would have chosen retirement instead of a third term.
As for the second part of your question, I think that Truman would have stepped away in 1952, no matter what. All Truman ever wanted to do was remain a U.S. Senator. When he was suggested as a potential Vice Presidential candidate, he was not interested, and when others reminded him that President Franklin D. Roosevelt likely wouldn’t survive the term, Truman declared that he didn’t want to be President either. Of course, he was elected Vice President and as in the case of almost every VP who succeeds to the Presidency, once Truman got to the White House he wanted to be elected to a term in his own right. Still, before Eisenhower declared that he was a Republican, Truman was suggesting that he (Truman) would be happy to step aside and be Eisenhower’s running mate if Ike wanted to run for President as a Democrat. So, Harry Truman did not mind retiring home to Missouri in 1952, and I think he would have done so, no matter what.
LBJ’s case was different. The fact that he was very nearly upset in the 1968 New Hampshire Democratic Primary by Eugene McCarthy really shook President Johnson up and showed that he was vulnerable. If there wasn’t a serious challenge from within his own party — first from McCarthy and then from RFK — LBJ would have stayed in that race in 1968. Despite his withdrawal from the race, deep down LBJ still had a flicker of hope that the Democratic National Convention would be deadlocked, turn to the outgoing LBJ, draft him into the race, nominate him, and he’d be the conquering hero, vanquishing Nixon and bringing the Vietnam War to an end.
LBJ was also a man of contradictions, though. Throughout his life, he always said that he would die young because all of the men in his family died by the time they were 64 or 65. As much as Johnson was addicted to power and craved the love of the American people (something that he never received like JFK did, which “broke his heart” according to Richard Nixon), he was also deeply worried that another four years in the White House would kill him. Worse yet, he would suffer an incapacitating stroke like Woodrow Wilson. LBJ often had a nightmare where he fell ill like Wilson and was an invalid — a shell of a once-powerful man bedridden or feebly being rolled through the White House in a wheelchair. It was an macabre thing to think about, but it was something that frequently haunted President Johnson, especially because he had suffered a near-fatal massive heart attack in 1955 when he was Senate Majority Leader. The confident, arrogant, impetuous, strong-willed LBJ wanted to take on Nixon and serve four more years in the White House. The sensitive, insecure, depressed LBJ considered resigning, didn’t think he’d live through the next term (1969-1973), and often had to receive a pep talk from Lady Bird to get his act together and go to work. So, with LBJ, it would actually depend on which LBJ you got on decision day when it comes to whether he would have sought a third term if not for the disastrous results of the 1968 New Hampshire Democratic Primary.
By the way, Lyndon Johnson died on January 22, 1973. If he had served a third term, it would have ended on January 20, 1973, just two days prior to the day that he actually died.
It was the crowning moment in Richard Milhous Nixon’s long career of political ups-and-downs. For the fifth time, Nixon had been a candidate on the national ticket (twice as Vice President, three times as President). In 1952 and 1956, the focus was on the top of the ticket, Nixon’s running mate, Dwight Eisenhower. In 1960, Nixon narrowly lost to — and some would say was the victim of theft from — John F. Kennedy. In 1968, Nixon finally won election to the Presidency, but he did so with some bitterness: the country was in shambles and the two people he wanted to oppose more than anyone else in the election — Lyndon Johnson and Bobby Kennedy — had respectively quit and been murdered during the turbulent campaign. Not only that, but in victory, Nixon had garnered only 43.4% of the vote — a full 6 percentage points less than he had earned in his 1960 loss to JFK.
On November 7, 1972, however, Nixon’s “Silent Majority” spoke loud and clear — and truly gave him both a majority victory and a strong mandate for his second term in the White House. Nixon trounced Democratic Senator George S. McGovern on election night. His popular vote victory was 61%-38% and Nixon’s margin in the Electoral College was even larger, 520-17. Nixon won every single state in the country except for Massachusetts. Nixon even won McGovern’s home state of South Dakota.
As the election returns rolled in and Nixon’s family, supporters, and staff celebrated, the man who had received the votes of 47,169,841 of his fellow Americans that day to be their President noted that he felt “a curious feeling, perhaps a foreboding, that muted my enjoyment of this triumphal moment.” In his memoirs, Richard Nixon elaborated further, “I am at a loss to explain the melancholy that settled over me on that victorious night…To some extent the marring effects of Watergate may have played a part, to some extent our failure to win Congress, and to a greater extent the fact that we had not yet been able to end the war in Vietnam. Or perhaps it was because this would be my last campaign. Whatever the reasons, I allowed myself only a few minutes to reflect on the past. I was confident that a new era was about to begin, and I was eager to begin it.”
The new era began the next morning. At 12:00 PM on November 8, 1972, President Nixon gathered his Cabinet in the White House. Nixon seemed tired and was suffering from a painful toothache. National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger noted that the President seemed “grim and remote”. Nixon’s loyal Chief of Staff, H. R. “Bob” Haldeman was at his side as the President nonchalantly thanked his Cabinet and then described his recent readings about Benjamin Disraeli and how Disraeli described a need to refresh the British government and rid it of the “exhausted volcanoes” in William Gladstone’s Cabinet. Nixon’s Cabinet was perplexed and curious as to where the President was headed. He had just won a landslide victory in the Presidential election, but he spoke as if he had lost everything.
After a few more minutes of talking about his plans for a second term that wasn’t “lethargic” such as those of some of his predecessors, Nixon simply stood up and walked out of the Cabinet Room, headed across the South Lawn, boarded Marine One and flew to his Camp David retreat. When the President stands, everyone stands but as soon as he left the room, the Cabinet sat down and looked at Bob Haldeman, who took over the meeting. Haldeman handed pieces of paper out to the Cabinet and said, “You’re all a bunch of burned-out volcanoes”. Then he immediately demanded everyone’s resignation. Nixon had won one of the biggest victories in American electoral history, and 24 hours later, he was basically firing everyone who had helped him to do so — earlier in the day, he had done the same thing that he did to the Cabinet to his White House staff.
Henry Kissinger summed it up by saying that, “It was as if victory was not an occasion for reconciliation but an opportunity to settle the scores of a lifetime.” For Richard Nixon, victory was never enough. He needed destruction. Nixon got rid of his exhausted volcanoes, but he was sitting on top of another volcano named Watergate. His abbreviated second term, which had been won the night before, would end less than two years later in his own personal and professional destruction.
I hate to give the cop-out answer, but it’s truly a bit of both. Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe wrote a fantastic, in-depth story on Saturday about what went wrong with Mitt Romney’s campaign, and what the Obama campaign did right, particularly with the overwhelming number of staffers Obama had on the ground and offices opened up in key battleground states in comparison to what Romney had.
Both campaigns had state-of-the-art voter targeting and tracking software, but the Obama campaign learned from mistakes made in 2008 and ensured that there were no glitches on Election Day — a mistake that the Romney campaign paid dearly for on November 6th.
What really stands out in Kranish’s article, however, is the differences in staffing and on the accountability for individual voters that Obama staffers took on during the campaign. The sheer number of people that Obama had on the ground in certain states (especially Florida and Ohio) is incredible and undoubtedly played a part in his victory. In some battleground states, Obama offices popped up like Starbucks franchises and that presence allowed the campaign to target the voters they needed to get to the polls. I mean, I was offered five different jobs by the Obama campaign in October in five distinctly different parts of North Carolina — and that’s a state that Obama lost! Kranish explains it far better than I can, so I highly suggest checking out his article.
I think Goldwater would have had a better chance in 1968 than 2012, but I don’t know if I can envision a scenario where Goldwater could ever win 270 electoral votes. McGovern, I believe, would have an easier time today because what he was in 1972 was really a sneak peek at what the Democratic Party would become in the 1990’s until now.
I will say this about Barry Goldwater — while he certainly scared the crap out of a lot of people in 1964, there were a lot of other factors that played a big role in LBJ’s landslide victory. When people went to the polls in November 1964, they did so less than a year after JFK’s assassination. With everything going on in the world, there was a hunger for political stability and LBJ offered that. Americans didn’t want to have three different Presidents in a span of less than 15 months. Even Goldwater knew that. He went into that 1964 campaign knowing that JFK’s assassination had all but guaranteed that Goldwater was fighting a losing battle.
Don’t get me wrong. LBJ’s effective assumption of the Presidency and his efficiency in working with Congress to get things accomplished from November 22, 1963 until November 3, 1964 also had a lot to do with the landslide. And Goldwater was too extreme for a lot of Americans. But the 1964 election would have been far closer had John F. Kennedy been seeking a second term against Barry Goldwater. Kennedy would have won, but there’s no way he would have won 61% of the popular vote like LBJ did in 1964.
The Electoral College actually never gathers together for a meeting. The Electors who American voters chose on Election Day last month will meet on December 17th in their respective state capitals. The Electoral College meets to officially cast their votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday of December following Election Day.
While each state has their own process for the meeting of their Presidential Electors, they don’t differ all that dramatically. There are various formalities and for the casting of the votes and some strict protocols for officially sending the votes to state officials and then to Congress, which officially counts and certifies the Electoral College results. That takes place in a Joint Session of Congress in early January and that responsibility is one of the first major actions of the new Congress. That means that, for the 2012 election, it will be the 113th Congress (which begins on January 3, 2013) instead of the 112th Congress (the Congress in office at the time of the 2012 election) which counts and officially certifies the Electoral College results. In our case, that’s probably a good thing because if anybody could screw up counting the Electoral votes, it’s the abysmal 112th Congress.
Interestingly, it is usually the Vice President, in his Constitutional role as President of the Senate, who presides over the Joint Session and the certification of the Electoral College results. Sometimes, that can lead to what must be an awkward and probably even somewhat heartbreaking experience of a Vice President presiding over the official certification of an election that he lost — something that has happened a few times recently: 1960 (Nixon, lost the Presidential election to Kennedy), 1968 (Humphrey, lost the Presidential election to Nixon), 1980 (Mondale, as Carter’s running mate), 1992 (Quayle, as Bush’s running mate), and, of course, 2000 (Gore, as famously seen in Fahrenheit 9/11.)
Just because I voted for Barack Obama doesn’t mean that I want to see Mitt Romney destroyed, or even hurt. I don’t agree with Governor Romney’s politics, but I don’t wish him ill and I certainly wouldn’t disrespect him.
This is the problem with American politics — Americans like the person who asked this question. They are on both sides of the aisle and they are equally horrible for our country. Last night, I found no glory in the fact that Mitt Romney lost; instead, I was hopeful and happy that Barack Obama won. I didn’t go to the polls to vote against Mitt Romney; I was there to vote for Barack Obama.
Much like John McCain four years ago, Mitt Romney went out with class last night, and he deserves our respect. I have never thought that Mitt Romney was a bad man. I thought Obama would be a better President, but there was never any hatred on my part for Romney. We can disagree with his politics or the way he campaigns, but there is no reason to look at Mitt Romney as a villain.
Yes, Governor Romney is incredibly wealthy and was probably out-of-touch with “average Americans” like you and me. But with all of that money, Romney could live a life of leisure and never have to work at anything again. Instead, what did he do? He devoted himself to public service. There’s no question that he loves his family and has a great relationship with them. He spent a significant amount of time in a leadership role with his church — not just by sitting in a pew every Sunday but by taking a leadership role where he gave up time to help the families and people of his community. Saving the Salt Lake City Olympics, serving as Governor of Massachusetts, running for President in 2008 and 2012 — none of those things were token jobs where Romney was a figurehead that got the credit while others did the work. They were all challenges that Romney tackled with hard work and, in each instant, he “left everything on the field”, as he said in his concession speech last night.
Make no mistake about it — running for President is one of the most difficult, exhausting, and thankless journeys that an American can take. Everyone who runs for President makes tremendous sacrifices, and nobody seeks the Presidency because they are bad people who want to do harm to the United States. Candidates for the Presidency like Mitt Romney — win or lose — are patriots. They have a vision for this country and the passion to put themselves on the frontline. To serve all of us.
Laugh at Mitt Romney? Taunt him? No, I would thank Mitt Romney. I’d tell him that I may not have cast a ballot for him, but that I appreciate the sacrifices he made in order to try to move our country forward. I’d admit that I disagree with his politics, but that I respect his beliefs and admire his passion for going after what he felt was right. I’d tell him that I know last night was probably one of the most difficult experiences of his life, but that he conceded with class, he demonstrated a remarkable work ethic throughout the campaign, and that I hoped that my fellow Democrats would have offered their support of him if Obama had lost as seamlessly and earnestly as he offered his support for the President during his concession.
We cannot and will not bridge the divisions in this country if we continue to be ugly towards each other. Politics alone will not take us where we need to be. There must be some magnanimity, some cooperation, some compromise between all of us — from the President and the Congress to the State Governors and Legislatures, and right on down to you and me and our neighbors. “Politics” and “compromise” are dirty words because we drag them through the mud along with anyone connected to those ideas. That has to stop. It has to stop between the Democrats and Republicans in Congress, it has to stop between the talking heads on cable news networks, and it has to stop with people who anonymously leave messages on blogs encouraging a celebration over the heartbreaking defeat of someone who put everything on the line to serve his country. Celebrate Obama’s victory, not Romney’s defeat. Congratulate Obama and his supporters, but don’t hesitate to appreciate Romney’s work ethic and devotion to service.
We are at our best when all of us — or at least the largest majority of us — are moving forward. We are at our best when we remember the first word in our nation’s name is “United”. The idea of a constant conflict pitting Democrats vs. Republicans where one side must win and one side must lose is not progress. It’s Civil War without violence — but not without casualties. As someone who knew something about Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant, once said, “Let us have peace.” We should follow General Grant’s advice and add, “Let us have progress.” With peace and progress will come prosperity for all of our people.
Alright, kids, let’s see if this Smart-Ass Commentary works for a debate. It worked well during President Obama’s State of the Union Address and during the Republican and Democratic Conventions, but I can’t promise that this experiment won’t be a total trainwreck.
It’s the second of three Presidential debates between President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. This is a town hall format from Hofstra University, alma mater of my favorite publicist in the whole wide world, Joe Villa of the WWE (that’s one WWE reference and I think you should take a shot every time I make one). Candy Crowley of CNN is moderating.
President Obama needs a good showing tonight because Governor Romney kicked the ever-loving shit out of him in the first debate. I thought Joe Biden won the Vice Presidential debate, but it was close and Paul Ryan came across well, in my opinion. This is really, truly, genuinely, seriously, authentically, legitimately, hugely important for Obama.
And here we go…it’s clobberin’ time (take a shot).
•After moderating this debate, Candy Crowley will be heading back to the North Pole so she can get ready to deliver everyone’s toys.
•They switched things up — Mitt with the blue tie tonight and Barack with the red one. How will that affect their performances???
•(It won’t. It’s just a fucking tie.)
•You know, if they really wanted to mix things up, instead of a third debate with one another, the candidates should have to speak at one of their opponent’s political rallies. That would be awesome to watch, especially if they did it randomly so the audience didn’t know ahead of time that they were getting Obama instead of Romney or vice versa.
•I wish we could hear what they say during their introductory handshake.
•Wouldn’t it be smart to talk trash at that time or try to throw the other guy off?
•Seriously, imagine how confused and off his game Obama would be if Romney ended the handshake by saying something like, “How about trying to keep it real this time, my nigga”. Obama would be stunned.
•Oh man, how am I going to keep this from being 40,000 words when I want to mock everyone who asks a question?
•At least that 20-year-old kid in his grandpa’s suit wasn’t nervous or anything. Ninety minutes of awkward people asking boring questions. This will be awesome. And by “awesome” I mean “stab me, please”.
•President Obama looks like he’s getting thinner, doesn’t he? He’s starting to look fragile.
•Romney seems like he’s feeling confident because of the last debate. He’s going to just start putting his arm around Candy Crowley and begin singing Pat Boone songs.
•Another nervous audience member. Dude was shaking like my head when the President begins another boring, uninspiring answer.
•These debates should be like that old pop-up video show on VH1 but with instant fact-checking from reliable sources.
•Obama: “That’s what we’re going to do in the next four years.”
Romney: “But that’s not what you’ve done in the last four years. That’s the problem.” — That is a killer line from Romney and Obama needs to combat that instantly, every single time, by mentioning the do-nothing, record-low-approval-rating, obstructionist Congress. Obama isn’t, so Romney is winning the message war.
•Romney is controlling this debate. He’s controlling the arguments. YOU ARE THE INCUMBENT, MR. PRESIDENT…TRY TO PRETEND YOU ARE IN CHARGE!
•I’m getting very frustrated. It’s like Obama doesn’t even care.
•Obama: “I’m used to being interrupted.” — ASSERT YOURSELF! LBJ wouldn’t have allowed that. Nixon wouldn’t have allowed that. Reagan and Clinton wouldn’t have allowed that. You are the President, assert yourself and take control.
•27 minutes in and Obama finally points out that Congress has hindered him.
•I hate to have to keep saying this, but if I’m going to be an honest observer, Romney is more focused. He explains what he wants to say better and with more confidence. He even seems more passionate and empathetic.
•Obama is a bit more aggressive right now, but he’s not connecting. I never thought I’d see the day where Mitt Romney would be connecting with people better than Barack Obama.
•Oh, well hello, Catherine Benton. I’m Anthony. Feel free to Facebook me if you want to talk about the issues, if you know what I mean…
•It would be hilarious if Romney talked about his respect for women or gender equality by saying, “The President had an influential grandmother in his life, and I looked up to my 57 grandmothers and loved each one equally, just like my grandfather did.”
•Now this is where Obama shines — the arguments about Planned Parenthood and health care choices for women. That’s where you get the passion that Romney has for job creation.
•Holy shit, an audience member with an interesting question! The lady who asked Romney about the differences between he and President Bush deserves a gold star.
•And Romney can’t run away from Bush quickly enough.
•Obama wants to kiss that lady on the mouth for letting him point out that Bush left him a steaming pile of dogshit when he left the White House.
•Smooth move by Obama to contrast Bush and Romney with examples that actually made Bush look MORE reasonable. That was the best thing Obama has done in two debates so far.
•When the black dude in the audience said that he voted for Obama in 2008 and wanted to know why he should vote for him in 2012, do you think it would have been controversial if Obama just blurted out, “BECAUSE I’M BLACK!”? I think Drudge would have had a problem with that.
•It’s taken 90 minutes of the 1st debate and nearly 60 minutes of the 2nd debate, but President Obama seems to have finally realized that he should try to get himself reelected.
•I have to be honest with you guys; it’s difficult for me to be a smart-ass with these debates because they are just too important. I get wrapped up in being focused on what the candidates are actually saying and it’s hard for me to try to write something funny.
•Obama getting pissed off at Romney about the Libyan attack was a strong moment.
•Oh, hey, what’s up, mamacita?
•Goddamn, this is a long 90 minutes, isn’t it?
•If I was in a Presidential debate, I would make a completely ridiculous claim about my opponent just so he’d have to deny it. I’d say things like, “Governor Romney, is it or is it not true that you eat kitten paws for lunch every Thursday?” or “Mr. President, it’s been said that you exercise by open-hand slapping newborn babies in their little faces whenever you can’t get to a basketball court, correct?”
•The President is just rambling. I listened to every word he said and I couldn’t even tell you what he was talking about. No spirit, no passion.
•We’re getting close to the end, thankfully.
•It’s pretty wild to think that Romney would be the third-oldest President to ever be inaugurated if he’s elected. He looks younger than half of the Presidents inaugurated at a younger age than he will be on January 20th.
•Speaking of January 20th — Inauguration Day — that’s my birthday, so you might want to start shopping and getting your gifts for me. I’ll go ahead and wait if you need to write that down real quick……got it? Good.
•Solid final question to lead into a final statement.
•Romney once again showed some passion with his answer.
•In debates, I think Obama’s cadence when he speaks hurts him. It makes it seem as if he is stammering at times when it’s just how he speaks.
•Yay, it’s over.
Final thoughts: I think Romney won this debate, too. It wasn’t a massacre like the first debate and Obama had some strong points, particularly in the middle part of the debate. For me, though, it keeps coming back to passion. Romney seems like he wants it more, seems like he cares more. I know how important it is to Obama, but he’s just not connecting. He’s not connecting with ME. If Barack Obama isn’t connecting with ME, I think he’s in trouble. Mitt Romney is a better debater and, astonishingly, he might actually be a better public speaker. There was more aggression out of Obama tonight, but there were still too many moments where he let Romney run through him or where he looked to the moderator to save him.
One debate to go and 20 days to Election Day and I have no idea who is going to be our next President.
No American has ever had more success as a Presidential candidate than Franklin D. Roosevelt and, barring a change in the Constitution, no one ever will. After unseating incumbent President Herbert Hoover in 1932, FDR won one of the largest landslides in American history in 1936 against Kansas Governor Alf Landon. In 1940, Roosevelt broke the unwritten two-term tradition set forth by George Washington and followed by all of Roosevelt’s predecessors to win an unprecedented third term. In 1944, with the nation in the middle of World War II, FDR shot down questions about his clearly deteriorating health to win his fourth Presidential election. Roosevelt died 82 days into his fourth and final term. In each of Roosevelt’s Presidential election victories, FDR won a significant majority of the popular vote and four clear-cut landslides in the Electoral College.
Ironically, FDR — the most successful Presidential candidate in American history — also happens to be the only President to have lost a campaign for the VICE Presidency. Throughout President Woodrow Wilson’s Administration, which included World War I, Roosevelt served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, a position that Roosevelt’s famous distant cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, had used as one of the springboards for his career.
Loyalty to President Wilson and Roosevelt’s own unique charisma and appeal made FDR a rising star in the Democratic Party. At the 1920 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, Ohio Governor James M. Cox emerged as a compromise Presidential nominee to the deadlocked Convention and the Democrats nominated the 38-year-old Roosevelt as Vice President.
FDR was a workhorse and campaigned tirelessly throughout the nation as an advocate for Cox as well as for the previous eight years of Democratic rule under the Wilson Administration. The country, however, was ready for a change and drifted towards Cox’s opponent and fellow Ohioan, Senator Warren G. Harding. Harding and his Vice President, Calvin Coolidge, defeated Cox and Roosevelt in November, but FDR had made an impact on the Americans who heard him speak during the hours and hours of speeches that he had given during his tens of thousands of miles of travel throughout the 1920 campaign. The next time FDR was on a national ticket, the results were different. With his name on top of the ballot, Franklin Delano Roosevelt would never lose another campaign again.
To this day, not only has a losing Vice Presidential candidate never been elected President, but only one losing Vice Presidential candidate besides FDR — 1976 Republican Vice Presidential nominee Bob Dole — has come back to even won his or her party’s nomination as President.
That’s a question that I think George H.W. Bush probably asks himself. Quayle was a strange choice for VP. Keeping him on the ticket in 1992 is more understandable because dumping your Vice President is a difficult and damaging thing to do. By dumping your VP from the ticket, you’re basically saying that you screwed up with the very first decision of magnitude that you had to make. Politically, it looks like a panic move because, in almost all cases, it is a panic move. Plus, Bush 41 was old-school and loyalty was extremely important to him.
As we continue the journey towards Election Day, we also continue our look at the data and statistics from nearly 225 years of Presidential history in order to compare the Presidents and Vice Presidents with each other and see where Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would fit in if they happened to win in November.
Today, we look at the Presidents and Vice Presidents organized by their age upon taking office. In most instances, this reflects their age on Inauguration Day when they proudly stood in front of the nation and their fellow Americans and took the oath of office. However, some instances reflect more somber, tragic moments when a Vice President was required to fulfill his Constitutional responsibilities and assume the Presidency upon the assassination, sudden natural death, and, in one case, resignation of the elected leader.
PRESIDENTS: AGE AT INAUGURATION
We look first at the ages of our Presidents, from oldest-to-youngest, on the day that they assumed office. The oldest President, Ronald Reagan, was inaugurated just 17 days short of his 70th birthday and was nearly 78 years old when he left office in 1989. He fared much better than the second oldest, William Henry Harrison, who was 68 on Inauguration Day 1841 and dead one month later. The youngest President ever was Theodore Roosevelt, who assumed office upon President McKinley’s assassination and wasn’t elected in his own right until 1904. The youngest person to be ELECTED President was John F. Kennedy.
Age | President | (Term as President)
69 years, 349 days: Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)
68 years, 23 days: William Henry Harrison (1841)
65 years, 315 days: James Buchanan (1857-1861)
64 years, 223 days: George H.W. Bush (1989-1993)
64 years, 100 days: Zachary Taylor (1849-1850)
62 years, 98 days: Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)
61 years, 354 days: Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)
61 years, 125 days: John Adams (1797-1801)
61 years, 26 days: Gerald Ford (1974-1977)
60 years, 339 days: Harry S. Truman (1945-1953)
58 years, 310 days: James Monroe (1817-1825)
57 years, 353 days: James Madison (1809-1817)
57 years, 325 days: Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809)
57 years, 236 days: John Quincy Adams (1825-1829)
57 years, 67 days: George Washington (1789-1797)
56 years, 223 days: George H.W. Bush (1981-1989)
56 years, 107 days: Andrew Johnson (1865-1869)
56 years, 65 days: Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921)
56 years, 11 days: Richard Nixon (1969-1974)
55 years, 351 days: Grover Cleveland-2nd term (1893-1897)
55 years, 196 days: Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893)
55 years, 122 days: Warren G. Harding (1921-1923)
55 years, 87 days: Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)
54 years, 206 days: Herbert Hoover (1929-1933)
54 years, 198 days: George W. Bush (2001-2009)
54 years, 151 days: Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881)
54 years, 89 days: Martin Van Buren (1837-1841)
54 years, 34 days: William McKinley (1897-1901)
52 years, 253 days: Jefferson Davis (1861-1865) [Confederate President]
52 years, 111 days: Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)
52 years, 20 days: Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865)
51 years, 350 days: Chester Alan Arthur (1881-1885)
51 years, 170 days: William Howard Taft (1909-1913)
51 years, 33 days: Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945)
51 years, 30 days: Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929)
51 years, 8 days: John Tyler (1841-1845)
50 years, 184 days: Millard Fillmore (1850-1853)
49 years, 304 days: James Garfield (1881)
49 years, 122 days: James K. Polk (1845-1849)
48 years, 101 days: Franklin Pierce (1853-1857)
47 years, 351 days: Grover Cleveland-1st term (1885-1889)
47 years, 169 days: Barack Obama (2009- )
46 years, 311 days: Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877)
46 years, 149 days: Bill Clinton (1993-2001)
43 years, 236 days: John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)
42 years, 322 days: Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)
2012 NOTE: If elected, Mitt Romney will be 65 years, 314 days old on Inauguration Day (January 20, 2013). Somewhat surprisingly, that would actually make Romney the 4th OLDEST President in American history. In fact, he’d very nearly be among the top three oldest Presidents since Romney would be just one day younger than the third oldest President, James Buchanan, was when he was inaugurated in 1857.
VICE PRESIDENTS: AGE AT INAUGURATION
The Vice Presidency seems to favor youth more than the Presidency. Including Confederate Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens, we have had 13 Vice Presidents under the age of 50, including the youngest person ever elected to national office, 36-year-old John C. Breckinridge, as well as Richard Nixon, who was elected VP before his 40th birthday. Yet the oldest man elected to national office (outside of Reagan’s second term) was 71-year-old Vice President Alben W. Barkley, and the two longest-living men ever elected to national office were Vice President John Nance Garner (died two weeks shy of his 99th birthday) and Vice President Levi P. Morton (died on his 96th birthday). Also, despite the Vice Presidency’s youthful history, a whopping SEVEN Vice Presidents have died in office — all of natural causes.
Age | Vice President | (Term as Vice President)
71 years, 57 days: Alben William Barkley (1949-1953)
69 years, 38 days: Charles Curtis (1929-1933)
68 years, 230 days: Elbridge Gerry (1813-1814)
66 years, 331 days: William Rufus DeVane King (1853)
66 years, 165 days: Nelson Rockefeller (1974-1977)
66 years, 61 days: Joe Biden (2009- )
65 years, 221 days: George Clinton (1805-1812)
65 years, 178 days: Thomas Andrews Hendricks (1885)
64 years, 292 days: Levi P. Morton (1889-1893)
64 years, 102 days: John Nance Garner (1933-1941)
61 years, 16 days: Henry Wilson (1873-1875)
60 years, 257 days: Harry S. Truman (1945)
60 years, 145 days: Gerald Ford (1973-1974)
59 years, 356 days: Dick Cheney (2001-2009)
59 years, 189 days: Charles Gates Dawes (1925-1929)
58 years, 355 days: Thomas Riley Marshall (1913-1921)
57 years, 247 days: William Almon Wheeler (1877-1881)
57 years, 132 days: Adlai E. Stevenson (1893-1897)
56 years, 138 days: Richard Mentor Johnson (1837-1841)
56 years, 65 days: Andrew Johnson (1865)
53 years, 325 days: Thomas Jefferson (1797-1801)
53 years, 238 days: Hubert H. Humphrey (1965-1969)
53 years, 173 days: John Adams (1789-1797)
53 years, 131 days: James Schoolcraft Sherman (1909-1912)
52 years, 297 days: Charles Warren Fairbanks (1905-1909)
52 years, 274 days: Garret A. Hobart (1897-1899)
52 years, 237 days: George Mifflin Dallas (1845-1849)
52 years, 146 days: Lyndon B. Johnson (1961-1963)
52 years, 105 days: Henry A. Wallace (1941-1945)
51 years, 189 days: Hannibal Hamlin (1861-1865)
51 years, 72 days: Spiro Agnew (1969-1974)
50 years, 340 days: John Tyler (1841)
50 years, 150 days: Chester Alan Arthur (1881)
50 years, 89 days: Martin Van Buren (1833-1837)
49 years, 56 days: Millard Fillmore (1849-1850)
49 years, 15 days: Walter Mondale (1977-1981)
49 years, 0 days: Alexander Hamilton Stephens (1861-1865) [Confederate VP]
48 years, 243 days: Calvin Coolidge (1921-1923)
45 years, 346 days: Schuyler Colfax (1869-1873)
45 years, 26 days: Aaron Burr (1801-1805)
44 years, 295 days: Al Gore (1993-2001)
42 years, 351 days: John C. Calhoun (1825-1832)
42 years, 256 days: Daniel D. Tompkins (1817-1825)
42 years, 128 days: Theodore Roosevelt (1901)
41 years, 351 days: Dan Quayle (1989-1993)
40 years, 11 days: Richard Nixon (1953-1961)
36 years, 42 days: John C. Breckinridge (1857-1861)
2012 NOTE: If elected, Paul Ryan will be 42 years, 356 days old on Inauguration Day (January 20, 2013), which is nine days before his 43rd birthday. That would make Ryan the 7th youngest Vice President in American history — a few days older than John C. Calhoun, but nearly a year younger than Al Gore.
In the nearly 225 years that the Presidency has existed, the American Presidents have been born in less than half of the nation’s states. In all, 29 of the 50 states in the Union have never seen a native-born son reach the White House.
Visitors to the following states will not find a Presidential birthplace within the borders of their destination: Alabama; Alaska; Arizona; Colorado; Delaware; Florida; Idaho; Indiana; Kansas; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Michigan; Minnesota; Mississippi; Montana; Nevada; New Mexico; North Dakota; Oklahoma; Oregon; Rhode Island; South Dakota; Tennessee; Utah; Washington; West Virginia; Wisconsin; and Wyoming. In addition, no President has ever been born in the District of Columbia, either.
The “Cradle of Presidents”, of course, is Virginia, birthplace of 8 of our Presidents, including 7 of the first 12. The Old Dominion is followed closely by Ohio, birthplace of 7 Presidents, all of whom served in the span of just a half-century.
Here’s the rundown of the states where the Presidents were born and how many each state produced:
•8: Virginia (Washington; Jefferson; Madison; Monroe; W.H. Harrison; Tyler, Taylor; Wilson)
•7: Ohio (Grant; Hayes; Garfield; B. Harrison; McKinley; Taft; Harding)
•4: Massachusetts (J. Adams; J.Q. Adams; Kennedy; G.H.W. Bush); New York (Van Buren; Fillmore; T. Roosevelt; F. Roosevelt)
•2: Kentucky (Lincoln; Jefferson Davis [Confederate President]); North Carolina (Polk; A. Johnson); Texas (Eisenhower; L. Johnson); Vermont (Arthur; Coolidge)
•1: Arkansas (Clinton); California (Nixon); Connecticut (G.W. Bush); Georgia (Carter); Hawaii (Obama); Illinois (Reagan); Iowa (Hoover); Missouri (Truman); Nebraska (Ford); New Hampshire (Pierce); New Jersey (Cleveland); Pennsylvania (Buchanan); South Carolina (Jackson)
2012 Note: If Mitt Romney defeats President Obama in November, he will be the first President in American history born in Michigan.
As for the Vice Presidents, we have had 48 VP’s in American history (I’m including Confederate Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens), and their birthplaces are scattered across 23 states meaning more than half of our country’s states (27) can’t claim a Vice President as a native-born son: Alabama; Alaska; Arizona; Arkansas; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Hawaii; Idaho; Illinois; Louisiana; Michigan; Mississippi; Montana; Nevada; New Mexico; North Dakota; Oklahoma; Oregon; Rhode Island; Tennessee; Utah; Washington; West Virginia; and Wyoming.
Here’s the rundown of which states the Vice Presidents were born in and how many VPs each state produced, beginning with the “Cradle of Vice Presidents” — New York:
•8: New York (George Clinton; Daniel D. Tompkins; Martin Van Buren; Millard Fillmore; Schuyler Colfax; William Almon Wheeler; Theodore Roosevelt; James Schoolcraft Sherman)
•4: Kentucky (Richard Mentor Johnson; John C. Breckinridge; Adlai E. Stevenson; Alben William Barkley)
•3: Massachusetts (John Adams; Elbridge Gerry; George H.W. Bush); Ohio (Thomas A. Hendricks; Charles Warren Fairbanks; Charles G. Dawes); Vermont (Chester A. Arthur; Levi P. Morton; Calvin Coolidge)
•2: Indiana (Thomas Riley Marshall; Dan Quayle); Maine (Hannibal Hamlin; Nelson Rockefeller); Nebraska (Gerald Ford; Dick Cheney); New Jersey (Aaron Burr; Garret Augustus Hobart); North Carolina (William Rufus DeVane King; Andrew Johnson); Pennsylvania (George Mifflin Dallas; Joe Biden); Texas (John Nance Garner; Lyndon B. Johnson); Virginia (Thomas Jefferson; John Tyler)
•1: California (Richard Nixon); District of Columbia (Al Gore); Georgia (Alexander Hamilton Stephens [Confederate Vice President]); Iowa (Henry A. Wallace); Kansas (Charles Curtis); Maryland (Spiro Agnew); Minnesota (Walter Mondale); Missouri (Harry S. Truman); New Hampshire (Henry Wilson); South Carolina (John C. Calhoun); South Dakota (Hubert H. Humphrey)
2012 Note: If Paul Ryan is elected Vice President in November, Ryan will be the first Vice President in American history born in Wisconsin.
Looking at all of the information, there are 23 states in the U.S. that can’t claim either a President or Vice President as a native-born son: Alabama; Alaska; Arizona; Colorado; Delaware; Florida; Idaho; Louisiana; Michigan; Mississippi; Montana; Nevada; New Mexico; North Dakota; Oklahoma; Oregon; Rhode Island; Tennessee; Utah; Washington; West Virginia; Wisconsin; and Wyoming.
That’s a great question. In my “Quick Questions” interview with Edward McClelland last week, I asked him a similar question. McClelland is a Chicago journalist who covered Barack Obama during the President’s rise through Illinois state politics and the author of Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President (BOOK•KINDLE). I asked if he thought Obama would seek elective office in the future — particularly another run at the White House — if he loses to Mitt Romney in November and McClelland answered, “If it’s extremely close, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run again.”
If President Obama loses his bid for re-election in November, he will leave office at a younger age than any President in American history besides Theodore Roosevelt. Obama certainly wouldn’t have a difficult time finding work, but the problem is what kind of meaningful work could keep a President — especially one who is just 51 years old — interested and occupied. It’s not too big of a stretch to imagine Obama pulling a Grover Cleveland and trying to win a non-consecutive term in 2016. Doing that, however, would probably require a very difficult campaign for the Democratic nomination from fellow Democrats who might believe that he had his chance and didn’t succeed. Most likely, he’d be facing off against his 2007-2008 rival and current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton I don’t know if he could win that race.
On top of that, I don’t know if another grueling Presidential campaign would be something that Obama’s family would want to endure. Obama was very clear in 2008 that he had one chance to run for President and that Michelle would be adamantly opposed to a second run if he had lost in 2008. We often forget how exhausting, stressful, and tough it is to run for President, particularly for someone who has a young family. It would be doubly hard in this hypothetical situation as he’d have to re-energize the voters who swept him into office in 2008 while simultaneously defending his first term, admitting some missteps, and declaring why he deserved another chance.
That’s if he loses in November. Let’s say that the President IS re-elected in November. Even with a second term, he would be just 55 years old upon leaving office — about the same age that President Clinton was at the end of his two terms. In this case, I highly doubt that he would seek a different elective office. John Quincy Adams served 17 years in the House of Representatives following his Presidency and Andrew Johnson was elected to the U.S. Senate after he left the White House. That was the 19th Century, however. Congress doesn’t have the same appeal or dignity that it once possessed. It’s the most unpopular organization in the United States, with a dismal 9% approval rating. An ex-President joining the Senate or the House following his term in the 21st Century wouldn’t be elevating the chamber he served as much as he’d be tarnishing whatever legacy he left the White House with. Everything King Midas touched turned to gold, but anything that touches the Congress in this divisive era turns to shit. A former President wouldn’t want to pollute himself by diving into such a messy place. Plus, a President is used to action. The deliberate pace and constantly obstructionist ways of today’s Congress would drive him insane.
My guess is that Obama would follow in the footsteps of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and, now, George W. Bush and not only build a Presidential Library but establish a foundation that can target issues or areas that Obama takes an interest in. I don’t know what that would be, but I don’t think he’d just go home to Chicago, teach a couple of night classes each week, and play some pick-up basketball. Like Clinton and Carter, he would be active. One job that I could see him in (if a Democratic President was in office and able to offer it to him) is a seat on the Supreme Court. It’s not unprecedented — President Harding appointed former President Taft as Chief Justice — and it seems like the type of job that would perfectly suit Obama’s nature and intellect. His opponents would be thrilled to take their best shot at him during confirmation hearings, but I think he would be confirmed.
Other than that, I just don’t know. I can see him being an activist, but I don’t quite know what he would be an activist about. Whether he leaves office in January at 51 or January 2016 at 55, the President will become a very young ex-President, and I couldn’t imagine him retiring and kicking back on a beach in Hawaii for the rest of his life.