by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Many Democratic primary voters consider 76-year-old former Vice President Joe Biden the most likely candidate to beat President Trump. But history shows that Democrats win presidential elections with younger, charismatic, “hope-and-change” nominees like John F. Kennedy or Barack Obama, not older, experienced ones like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.
In three of the last seven presidential elections, Democrats won against Republican candidates more than 20 years their senior.
Bill Clinton was 46 in 1992 when he beat President George H.W. Bush, then 68. In 1996, Clinton won reelection at 50 against GOP nominee Bob Dole, then 73. At 47, President Barack Obama beat Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was 72 during the 2008 election.
When those match-ups happened, “younger people [were] disproportionately more of the electorate than they normally are,” Democratic strategist Jeff Hewitt told the Washington Examiner. Even in other years, he noted, youth benefits a Democrat. “Any time it’s 10, 12 years [of an age difference] or more, I think it’s a generational shift that younger voters get excited about.”
Thor Hogan, professor of politics and environmental sustainability at Earlham College in Indiana, also noted the trend of younger Democrats winning presidential elections in a November 2018 analysis.