Age Only Matters for Female Candidates

If Mitt Romney does decide to jump into the presidential race for a third time, we’ll have the perfect opportunity to view sexism in action. Why? Because Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney are the same age (actually, Romney is about 7 months older). Want to keep count on how many pundits and reporters mention her age versus those who mention his?

Mitt Romney’s reemergence as a possible top-tier Republican contender for the 2016 White House race has created an awkward situation for some Republicans and conservative commentators who have been dwelling on Hillary Clinton’s age in recent months. The development also poses a potentially thorny issue for journalists in terms of how they treat male and female politicians.

To date, Republicans have been eager to highlight Clinton’s age. “Republican strategists and presidential hopefuls, in ways subtle and overt, are eager to focus a spotlight on Mrs. Clinton’s age,” the New York Times reported in 2013. Just this week, conservative Washington Post contributor Ed Rogers mocked Clinton for being stuck in a cultural “time warp,” circa the “tie-dye” 1960s.

So why the newfound awkwardness for spotlighting Clinton’s age? Because Mitt Romney’s the same age as Hillary Clinton. They’re both 67 years old. (Actually, Romney’s older than Clinton by seven months.)

The fact that early polling suggests the possible Republican front runner is the same age as Clinton raises interesting questions for the political press, which has carved out plenty of time and space in recent years to analyze the question of Clinton’s age and to repeat Republican allegations that she might be too old for the job of president. Going forward, will the same press corps devote a similar amount of time and space asking the same questions about Romney? And if not, why not? (A recent Boston Globe article actually positioned Romney’s age as a plus for the Republican: “Supporters have also noted that Romney would be 69 years old in 2016 — the same age as Reagan when he was sworn into his first term.”)

Note that Clinton famously faced sexist commentary about her age during the 2008 campaign. The late Slate writer Christopher Hitchens ridiculed her as an “aging and resentful female,” while Rush Limbaugh’s website once asked, “Do the American people want to observe the aging of this woman in office?”

Currently, we know where Republicans stand, albeit before they realized 67-year-old Romney might run again. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell compared Clinton to a cast member from “The Golden Girls,” Rick Santorum called her “old,” Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker claimed that Clinton “embodies that old, tired top-down approach from the government,” while former Fox host Mike Huckabee wondered if the former secretary of state who traveled nearly one million miles while in office would have the stamina for a national campaign: “She’s going to be at an age where it’s going to be a challenge for her.”

And then there’s Fox contributor Erick Erickson. Hillary Clinton is “going to be old” in 2016, he said. “I don’t know how far back they can pull her face.”

I think we all know the answer to that. Her age will get mentioned a lot; his won’t.

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  • colnago80

    Considering that women statistically live longer then men, a President Romney would be more likely to die in office then a President Clinton. Another subject that the lamestream media will be loath to point out.

  • scienceavenger

    …will the same press corps devote a similar amount of time and space asking the same questions about Romney? And if not, why not?

    Well, aside from the sexism thesis here, which I do not doubt, there is a confounding variable that would drive any good scientist nuts: he looks a lot younger.

  • Mike Morris

    McCain was 72 or so when he ran in 2008 and that was a serious concern after he chose Quittin Palin for a running mate. It wasn’t so much his age as her idiocy but the GOP nominated him despite his agedness…

  • hoku

    To be fair, age is basically the main thing we heard about McCain.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    The selection of Sarah Palin as a running mate is the main thing we heard about McCain.

    Romney is apparently trying to reinvent himself as the anti-poverty candidate. The easiest way for him to follow through would be to send me a check.

  • Doubting Thomas

    So how old would Rmoney be in woman years?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Doubting Thoma #6: So how old would Rmoney be in woman years?

    29.

  • matty1

    @2 I’m notoriously crap at judging age from appearance but to me Romney does not look a lot younger than Clinton.

  • http://www.jafafahots.com Jafafa Hots

    Why does Romney seem more viable despite actually being older?

    Just For Men.

    That, and hair dye.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    Because Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney are the same age

    Both of them are “too old” in my opinion. I’d say “I don’t trust anyone over 35” but then I’d have to doubt whether I said that. 😉

    Seriously, though, why do humans keep choosing reactionary old farts as political leaders? I think it’s evidence the game is rigged, more than anything else.

  • lorn

    The vision of Palin being one failed heartbeat away from the presidency was enough to give even some hard core Republicans pause.

    Related but OT- Incompetence, not age, was again an issue when people whispered that Dan Quayle being vice president made George H. W. Bush immune to assassination. There was even a story about the Secret Service guarding Quayle planning to be so “shocked” at the death of the president that one of their guns gets away from them and they end up killing Quayle if Bush died. The agent would retire in disgrace having made the sacrifice for the good of the nation. After a sufficient period of mourning his wife would be quietly placed on several corporate boards and he would receive several very lucrative stock tips to provide the funds necessary to set him up in a comfortable retirement.

    I suspect that Hillary is going to outlive most of her contemporaries. She has, discounting a few short term exceptions, always taken care of herself and the fact that females tend to live longer combine to shift the odds significantly in her favor. Discounting any sudden issues she likely has at least another ten years of active public service and a over twenty before she falls off the perch.

  • moarscienceplz

    So 67 is too old to be president, eh?

    The oldest president to assume office was Ronald Reagan (age 69 years, 349 days).

  • embertine

    Just For Men.

    That, and hair dye.

    Pfffffft. Heheheh.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Related but OT- Incompetence, not age, was again an issue when people whispered that Dan Quayle being vice president made George H. W. Bush immune to assassination.

    That contains a huge hidden assumption – that the assassin wants a good outcome for the USA.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    lorn #11: I suspect that Hillary is going to outlive most of her contemporaries. She has, discounting a few short term exceptions, always taken care of herself and the fact that females tend to live longer combine to shift the odds significantly in her favor…

    Have you already forgotten the fainting incident of 2012?

  • Michael Heath

    Ed’s linked article:

    (A recent Boston Globe article actually positioned Romney’s age as a plus for the Republican: “Supporters have also noted that Romney would be 69 years old in 2016 — the same age as Reagan when he was sworn into his first term.”)

    I thought the lesson from history when referring to Ronald Reagan’s age is that the two political parties might not want to nominate someone who was Reagan’s age the year he was first inaugurated. That article asserts that was 69. It’s prudent for parties to work for their candidate to be president for eight years. Incumbents also have about a 70% chance of winning a second term. That where there’s some compelling evidence that President Reagan was suffering from dementia late in his second term.

    My use of the “might not want” weasel phrase is if there’s a reasonable chance someone not suffering from dementia at age 69 might be by the time they reach 76 and 77 years old. Or perhaps not dementia but otherwise physically/mentally unable to perform the duties at the ages of 76 and 77.

  • Michael Heath

    lorn writes:

    The vision of Palin being one failed heartbeat away from the presidency was enough to give even some hard core Republicans pause.

    But it wasn’t much of a pause. The 2008 convention unanimously approved of Sen. McCain’s nomination – a perfect illustration of prioritizing party over country. That was the evening I quit the GOP; her enthusiastic confirmation by the convention delegates was my last straw. By 2008 I wasn’t very loyal, I already predominately voting for Democrats at the federal level since the emergence of Newt Gingrich in 1994.

  • colnago80

    Re Marcus Ranum @ #10

    Well Dubya was 54 when he was first elected, Obama was 47, Clinton was 44, Carter was 56, and Kennedy was 43. Not exactly old farts.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    colnago80 #18:Well Dubya was 54 when he was first elected…

    Stay on topic. We are discussing age, not IQ.

  • tfkreference

    Doubting Thomas @6:

    So how old would Rmoney be in woman years?

    Alec Baldwin’s character on 30 Rock once said, “50 is the new 40 – for men; it’s still 60 for women.”

  • acroyear

    I’m reminded of the Olympics coverage where any time the stats came up for a male athlete they included the weight, but never for any female athlete.

  • sambarge

    I’m reminded of the Olympics coverage where any time the stats came up for a male athlete they included the weight, but never for any female athlete.

    MISANDRY!!!

  • Anne Fenwick

    Her age will get mentioned a lot; his won’t.

    Let’s hope the Democrats campaign team is better than to let that pass. Personally, I think they’re both too old. It’s a high pressure job, even physically, and requires the processing of a huge amount of information and occasionally, fast and flexible reactions. If the president can’t do it, trust that some unelected person, lurking in the background will have to. There should be a top limit of 60 at the start of the term.

  • lorn

    Michael Heath @17:

    “The 2008 convention unanimously approved of Sen. McCain’s nomination – a perfect illustration of prioritizing party over country. That was the evening I quit the GOP; her enthusiastic confirmation by the convention delegates was my last straw. By 2008 I wasn’t very loyal, I already predominately voting for Democrats at the federal level since the emergence of Newt Gingrich in 1994.”

    When I turned 18, as I remember it I was riding around on a brand new triceratops, I registered Republican because it looked like that would be where my vote would count the most because the Democrats pretty much ran both houses at the time. I’ve never voted for a Republican in anything but a primary and pretty much gave up on the GOP when it nominated Reagan. For me that was when the needs of the nation and the needs of the GOP parted ways. I had no special insight but had a viscerally negative reaction to a make-believe cowboy and third-rate actor, the betrayer of actors during the red scare, becoming president. IMO all of my vague trepidations and inchoate fears were made manifest during his term.

    IMO many of our problems, economic, military, the relationship of the rich to the poor, public good, and mistaken understandings of the roll of government can be tracked back to Reagan IMHO.

    I never got around re-registering. Given the enthusiasm of the GOP for purging, blocking, and challenging registered Democrats my being listed as a Republican may be, may have been, protective.

    I agree that the McCain/Palin ticket was a turning point. The GOP leadership can’t admit it was a mistake because admitting mistakes is seen as weakness. The GOP is deathly afraid of expressing doubt or doing anything in public that might be interpreted as unmanly. But a lot of people on the right will, perhaps only after a few beers, admit Palin was a terrible mistake.