• Greg Hinz On Politics
  • Greg Hinz On Politics

    Geezer-gate: Why is the presidential field so, um, mature?

    In a nation otherwise fixated on youth, what explains the dominance of so many old folks in the presidential race? A few longtime operatives weigh in.

    Bloomberg

    2020 presidential candidates Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders arrive on stage for a Democratic presidential candidate debate in November.

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    79彩票注册网址I had one of those deep-sigh moments a couple of weeks ago, the kind of event you have when Junior says goodbye and heads to college, the mortgage gets paid off, or hitting the gym hard begins to require multiple ibuprofens. My big-sigh event: I applied for Social Security.

    There's no reason not to, my accountant sternly told me. You've earned it, and you've maxed out the benefit, so you might as well take it, he advised. Besides, you can keep working if you want—I do and will—so you might as well have some extra cash.

    79彩票注册网址Still, I sighed. Social Security means you're, um, no longer exactly of middle age. Until I realized that, were I running for president this year, I'd easily be the youngest major contender in the field—not counting Pete Buttigieg (who I think has peaked) and Amy Klobuchar (whose prospects now appear really tough).

    79彩票注册网址Consider: Elizabeth Warren, 70, is the baby of the race, just barely born in the 1940s—June 26, 1949, to be specific. Incumbent Donald Trump is 73. Three other major contenders—Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders—all were born within 14 months of one another, at a time when World War II was raging or (in Sanders' case) about to break out for the U.S. at Pearl Harbor. And this is the second presidential cycle in a row of this type. During the 2016 race, Hillary Clinton was 68, Sanders 74 and Trump 69.

    79彩票注册网址So, in a nation otherwise fixated on youth, what explains this apparent revenge of the geezers?

    79彩票注册网址I talked with some of the many Chicago-area folks who held top positions in past presidential races. Some say the phenomenon is mostly or even totally a fluke. But others say there's more to it, at least on the Democratic side. (Trump notwithstanding, the establishment usually coronates GOP nominees.)

    79彩票注册网址For instance, Pete Giangreco, who's had campaign jobs of significance as far back as Gary Hart in 1984, pins much of it on the media. Back in the day, he says, a newcomer (Hart, Paul Tsongas, Bill Clinton) could storm out of Iowa or New Hampshire and all of a sudden get all the publicity in the world from the only sources that counted: the three TV networks, the New York Times and a few others. But no longer. The media environment is so fractured that "it's harder to get known," Giangreco says. That means you have to start earlier, and building up a web list of, say, 100,000 donors just takes time, he argues. That favors pols who have been around awhile.

    79彩票注册网址Strategist Marilyn Katz, a former Barack Obama bundler, says it's generational. The people now leading the pack grew up in the 1960s, when public service and political activity were more imperative than they are now. Much like the Greatest Generation of World War II vets, today's crop came up at the same time, and that's now a while back, she says.

    79彩票注册网址Political publicist Delmarie Cobb—she handled press for the Rev. Jesse Jackson's 1988 campaign and worked for Hillary Clinton in the last go-round—says some of this has to do with the rise of Barack Obama and then Clinton's 2016 race. They kept a whole generation of younger people waiting behind them, she argues. Now, all of a sudden, "You look around when you've finally got a chance, and you're 70."

    Kevin O'Keefe, who was the real Chicago pol in Bill Clinton's White House, says it's not structural but historical. A whole generation of Democratic governors got wiped out in the last 25 years, and congressmen rarely go far in presidential races. That means the party has turned to senators, and "they're older than they used to be."

    79彩票注册网址Others I talked to suggest that the Democrats' heavy reliance on superdelegates worked to the disadvantage of newcomers, especially people of color. One called this year's field "the last gasp" of the baby boomers and predicts real change come 2024.

    79彩票注册网址We'll see. Meanwhile, it's good to know that, if I get tired of this journalism thing, I've still got time to aim for Trump's job!

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