Ronald Reagan was 69 years old in 1980 and 73 years old in 1984. George H.W. Bush was 64 when first elected president and 68 when he ran for re-election. John McCain was 71 when nominated for president in 2008. Yet Republican politicians and strategists appear to believe that Hillary Clinton’s age and long time on the national stage will be potent factors working against her possible candidacy in 2016. One experienced GOP campaign hand even believes Democrats will raise concerns about Clinton’s age before Republicans will.
State polls repeatedly show that Hillary Clinton is the favored presidential candidate of Democrats everywhere. She is not nearly as polarizing as she was in 2007 and 2008, thanks to her work as secretary of state. Even after weeks of relentless right-wing media attacks over Benghazi, Clinton’s favorability ratings dropped only slightly, according to various nationwide polls. I am not enthusiastic about Hillary’s likely economic policies, but I have not seen any polling to indicate that such concerns are widespread.
Republicans have reason to predict publicly that younger Americans will prefer a younger candidate, but as Paul Begala noted, “I would remind my Republican friends that Reagan got 59 percent of the youth vote when I was in college, and he was the oldest guy to ever run for president.” I know plenty of onetime Reaganauts in my age cohort who admire Hillary Clinton (and Bill Clinton, for that matter, even if they didn’t vote for him during the 1990s).
Furthermore, electing the first woman president would be anything but “old news.” Hillary Clinton’s leadership style and speech mannerisms are quite different from Barack Obama’s, so depicting her as “more of the same” won’t fly. She is also popular among the two fastest-growing ethnic groups in the country, Asian-Americans and Latinos.
In my opinion, only a serious health problem could derail Hillary’s presidential ambitions. Newt Gingrich was right when he said late last year, “the Republican party is incapable of competing at that level.”