BARELY halfway through the first year of his second term, talk is well underway about which Democrat might try to succeed Barack Obama in the White House. One of the front-runners is Hillary Clinton, who sought the job in 2008. But is she too old? Republicans may try to make that argument a few years hence, although doing so could be risky.
Clinton would turn 69 a few weeks before Election Day 2016. Ronald Reagan was the same age when he won the White House in 1980. As Democratic strategist Paul Begala put it to The New York Times, “I would remind my Republican friends that Reagan got 59 percent of the youth vote when I was in college, and he was the oldest guy to ever run for president.”
But as the newspaper also noted, every other modern president has been no more than 10 years older than the man who preceded him. Obama will be 55 when he exits.
This would seem to hurt the odds of Vice President Joe Biden being able to make the move down the hall to the Oval Office. Biden, whose name is another at the top of the list of potential Democratic contenders, would turn 74 soon after the 2016 election.
Clinton already has the attention of backers and opponents alike. A grassroots effort is underway on a super political action committee called “Ready for Hillary.” The super PAC has no official ties to the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state, but it has started raising funds and lining up endorsements for a 2016 campaign. Among its advisers are Craig T. Smith and Harold Ickes, who served in Bill Clinton’s White House.
Hillary Clinton has kept a relatively low profile since leaving the State Department on Feb. 1, but, as The Associated Press noted in a recent profile, she has weighed in via Twitter on the Supreme Court’s decisions regarding the Voting Rights Act and gay marriage — issues close to the hearts of the Democratic base.
Meantime GOP groups are working against her. Among them is a group called Stop Hillary PAC, which is raising money, and Republican strategist Karl Rove’s American Crossroads. During the general election, “The idea that we’re at the end of her generation and that it’s time for another to step forward is certainly going to be compelling,” Rove told the Times. But he said the GOP needs to be careful with the topic of age.
The Times noted that Clinton’s “maturity” could wind up being a plus. “American voters have a tendency to elect presidents with the traits that their predecessors lacked,” the newspaper said, “and if Mr. Obama’s term ends on a sour note, the electorate may look fondly upon a candidate with deep experience.”
The current slate of potential Republican candidates includes mostly men in their 40s and 50s who will look to appeal to younger voters, a demographic Obama dominated in 2008 and 2012. If Hillary Clinton winds up being the opponent, they’d be well advised to remind voters — of all ages — of her take on what led to the deaths of our ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, while she was running the State Department: “What difference, at this point, does it make?” she told Congress months later.
This remark will never grow old.