One extraordinary point about this year's election is that the combined aged of the two front-runners is by some margin the highest ever. Donald Trump turns 70 a few months before the election, and Hillary Clinton a few months after. Their combined age of 139 on Election Day is ten years more than the previous record, Reagan (73) and Mondale (56) in 1984 (total 129). Only twice before have both main candidates been over 60 - the obscure elections of 1848, when Zachary Taylor (63) beat Lewis Cass (64), and 1828 when Andrew Jackson beat John Quincy Adams (both 61). To have both over 69 - both over 70, in the unlikely event that Sanders not Clinton is the Democratic candidate - is really unprecedented.
I found it striking as I crunched the numbers that the average age of candidates now is much older than it used to be. In the list of ages of the leading candidates at each election below, I've put the 16 elections since 1952 (starting with 1956) in red; the 16 elections before 1852 (ending with 1848) in blue; and the 26 elections from 1852 to 1952 inclusive in green. It's clear that the middle period saw younger candidates, with those 26 elections supplying 22 of the bottom half of the table, and 4 of the top half - in fact, none of the middle 26 are in the top 30% of the table, and the high-water mark is the comparatively youthful matchup between Hayes and Tilden in 1876. Meanwhile all four elections since 2000, and all but two of the ten elections starting with 1980 (in darker red), are in the top third of the table. The earlier period was even more elderly, with only two elections (one of which doesn't really count) of the first 16 in the lower half of the table.
I'm assuming that some fraction of what's going on is better medical care/less smoking so that politicians have longer careers, but there may well also be some underlying pressure (more time to build coalitions?) which is pushing the ages higher.
Go to the link for the multi-colored list.
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