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Over the course of the next year, you’re going to hear plenty of theories as to what guarantees victory in a president election.
For example, there’s the matter of candidates’ height — the premise being that the taller contender always wins. A few years ago, researchers at Texas Tech took a look at this and decided there was something to it — something having to do with voters and their primordial instincts.
The problem is that “caveman politics” hasn’t held up in the Information Age. In 2012, Mitt Romney was a shade taller than Barack Obama. In 2000, Al Gore stood higher (and sighed louder) than George W. Bush. Bush also was lesser in physical stature in 2004 (4-1/2 inches lower than John Kerry), but again he debunked the theory.
What then should we be looking at?
I’d go with youth. Dating back to Bill Clinton in 1992, the younger of the two candidates has earned more popular votes (yes, this applies to Gore in 2000) — which doesn’t bode well for Hillary Clinton, presuming she’s a 69-year-old Democratic nominee a year from this November.
Or, if you prefer, another variable: looks.
I refer you to this Huffington Post column that rationalizes why 2016’s winner will be…Marco Rubio. Why? for a lot of reasons you might guess: the Florida senator is young, ethnic, a genuine conservative, and knows his foreign policy.
Plus this — the idea that the national vote truly is a beauty contest:
The effects of physical looks on presidential elections are well documented. The most famous example was 1960, when John F. Kennedy was perceived by television viewers to have beaten Nixon in their presidential debate and radio listeners said Nixon won. Data confirms the importance of looks. Researchers at Princeton University found that the candidate voted as more competent-looking went on to win in 69% of the gubernatorial races and 72% of the Senate races. A University of California study quantified the effect of attractiveness at a 13% vote swing.
Marco Rubio is a young, handsome, attractive candidate who physically exudes a leader presence. For all the importance of money and policy on the outcome of elections, data seems to indicate that looks count for a whole lot. This will carry Rubio through the primary and help him beat Hilary Clinton in the general election
I’ll leave it to you to figure why this didn’t work for Mitt Romney . . .
Meanwhile, some numbers:
The 2016 presidential election marks the 9th such “change” contest over the past century — an open seat up for grabs.
I won’t bother trying to pick the winner of a beauty contest between, say, Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey.
But to recap how age and height worked out with regard to the victor:
2008: Obama — younger and taller
2000: George W. Bush — older and shorter
1988: George H.W. Bush — older and taller
1968: Nixon — younger and taller
1960: John F. Kennedy — younger and taller
1952: Dwight Eisenhower — older and taller
1928: Herbert Hoover — older and taller
1920: Warren Harding — older and taller
Height prevails seven out of eight times. Youth won out three times.
The bottom line: whatever factor you want to cook up — looks, age, height, weight, educational pedigree, astrological sign, numbers of vowels and consonants in a last name — there’s only one candidate you want to be in a presidential contest. That would be George Washington. He stood 6’2,″ essentially ran unopposed and twice swept the Electoral College.
Good luck messing with the formula.Published in