John McCain, the likely Republican president nominee, has been getting a boost from older voters, many of whom like the idea that, since he’ll be 72 when the election comes, he would be the oldest person ever to win a first term as president. (Los Angeles Times, free registration) Many political observers say that McCain’s age will increase pressure on him to pick a young but tested running mate. (United Press International)
What the commentators said
Plenty of people have asked whether the nation is ready to elect a woman or an African America to the White House, said David Harsanyi in The Denver Post, but the real question this year is whether “Americans are ready to elect a grouchy old white guy.” The polls aren’t encouraging for McCain. According to Gallup, “only 5 percent of Americans would never vote for an African-American, while 11 percent claim they would never vote for a woman,” but 42 percent claim they would not vote for a 72-year-old.
Age has “remained notably absent as a campaign issue” so far, said Andrew Kohut in The New York Times’ Campaign Stops blog. But that won’t hold true in the general election. Age was “very much on the minds of many American voters” back in 1996, when Bob Dole was running for president at 73. And while “voters may be reluctant to admit that they will not cast a ballot for a black or a woman, larger numbers are not at all shy about voicing reservations about voting for an older presidential candidate.”
Obama has already tried to score points with “wise-cracks” about McCain’s “half-century of service,” said James Kirchick in The New Republic’s The Plank blog. “Cheap shots” like that get laughs, yes. “This tactic is a double-edged sword, however, as hinting that McCain is too old (and all that being ‘too old’ implies: his war record, his decades in Congress, the voluminous legislation he has passed, etc.) opens up Obama to the obvious criticism that he is too young.”