In the last 20 years of Presidential elections, the younger of the two major party candidates has won the national popular vote every single time. Of course, winning the national popular vote doesn’t necessarily translate into an electoral victory, as 2000’s Bush v. Gore reminds us. But the numbers are interesting nonetheless.
1992: Bush (68) versus Clinton (46)
DEM -22; DEM WIN
1996: Clinton (50) versus Dole (73)
DEM -23; DEM WIN
2000: Bush (54) versus Gore (52)
DEM -2; DEM WIN*
2004: Bush (58) versus Kerry (60)
REP -2; REP WIN
2008: McCain (72) versus Obama (47)
DEM -25; DEM WIN
This November, Obama will be 51 years old as he seeks reelection for a second term. His opponent will be older than him. On election day, Rick Santorum will be 54; Mitt Romney will be 65; Newt Gingrich will be 69; and Ron Paul will be 77.
This trend says something about how each party vets candidates and values certain qualities in leaders. For example, you could argue that youth has a powerful association with change and the future, and age with the status quo and the past. In each of the contests above the prevailing mood of the nation was either inclined toward those associative qualities or actively seeking them. That’s a far cry from Reagan’s two victories, when the national mood sought a return to an imagined past and other qualities best found in an elder leader.
Right now, I see nothing to suggest we are less inclined as a national body to favor the qualities most associated with youth. This–and the circus that is the slate of Republican candidates–bodes well for the Prez.