Republicans’ 2016 Silver Lining: The Silver-Haired Candidate Tends To Lose

There is ample cause for Republicans to be concerned about the 2016 race. Hillary Clinton essentially has a lock on her party’s nomination while the Republican “front runners” are in a five-way tie with plenty of challengers behind them. 

So Hillary will be amassing her resources for the general while the GOP candidates are spending theirs on a bloody primary.

Moreover, the fact that Mitt Romney lost virtually every swing state in 2012 is a gruesome portent of the future.

But surrounding this gloomy cloud is a silver lining that Republicans can cling to: the candidate with the silver hair tends to lose.In the last six presidential elections, the younger candidate has won five times.

Year

WINNER

Birth year

LOSER

Birth year

Spread

2012

Obama

1961

Romney

1947

14

2008

Obama

1961

McCain

1936

25

2004

Bush 43

1946

Kerry

1943

3

2000

Bush 43

1946

Gore

1948

-2

1996

Clinton

1946

Dole

1923

23

1992

Clinton

1946

Bush 41

1924

22

 

 

The only time in modern politics that an older candidate beat a younger one was 2000, where the age difference was negligible and, yes, Al Gore won the popular vote. Furthermore, those elections where the winning candidate was significantly younger than the loser (the Clinton and Obama elections) were blow-outs.

This phenomenon could be an example of modern-media ageism, where the younger (and presumably more attractive, telegenic) candidate has an edge based on superficial qualifications. Or it could indicate a legitimate sense that the highest office in the land requires a stamina and vitality lost in later years. Most likely it’s a combination of the two.

But regardless, this trend bodes well for Republicans in 2016 because all the candidates are younger than Hillary Clinton.

Year

DEM

Birth year

GOP

Birth year

Spread

2016

Clinton, H

1947

Carson

1951

4

   

1947

Bush, J

1953

6

   

1947

Huckabee

1955

8

   

1947

Paul

1963

16

   

1947

Walker

1967

20

   

1947

Cruz

1970

23

   

1947

Rubio

1971

24

 

 

While the spread with Ben Carson and Jeb Bush is negligible, everyone from Rand Paul down has an age advantage comparable to the ones enjoyed by Obama and Clinton over their vanquished opponents.

Now of course the thing about presidential politics is everything is a rule until it isn’t. Democrats couldn’t win without a candidate from the South – until they did. As Ohio goes, so goes the nation – until it doesn’t. Hillary will (most likely) be the first-ever female at the top of the ticket, so that’s a new variable in the equation.

It remains to be seen if running an older candidate can trump the trend of voters favoring younger candidates or if a female candidate is even more vulnerable to this preference – but this trend is something to give Republicans hope about winning next year.