Born the same year as Hillary Clinton. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Born the same year as Hillary Clinton. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Serious question: Why did Mitt Romney get a pass about his age?

I got a bit of undeserved love on Twitter yesterday because I reacted to a Pew poll asking about Hillary Clinton’s age. I wanted to know whether anyone had asked the same question about Mitt Romney before 2012. My question received a whole bunch of retweets, presumably from people reading my question as suggesting Clinton was being subjected to a double standard.

But that’s not what I meant. Clinton isn't an exception. It was Romney who benefited from weird protection by the press.

Clinton was born in October 1947. She’s 66, and she would be 69 as she was sworn in as president in January 2017. Questions about a candidate's age are absolutely appropriate. The answer isn't obvious, though she would be an unusually old candidate and an unusually old president.

John McCain was older when he ran in 2008: he was born in 1936, and he was 72 in January 2009, when he would have been inaugurated. There was considerable talk about his age during the campaign, and HuffPollster found that a poll question was asked about it when he was running.

Bob Dole was 73 in January 1997; Ronald Reagan was 69 in January 1981. In both cases, the press discussed their age.

OK, Romney wasn’t quite as old, but it's close. Born in March 1947, he is a few months older than Clinton. He turned 66 a few weeks after he would have been sworn in as president. And yet I don’t remember the issue ever coming up in campaign reporting. And it wasn’t just him; the press rarely mentioned that Ron Paul (born in 1935) was old for a presidential candidate. Nor was age mentioned with Herman Cain (born in 1945) or Newt Gingrich (born in 1943). They were all old enough to be subject to the McCain/Dole/Reagan/Hillary Clinton treatment. No?

So I suppose the media will be behaving normally by talking about Clinton's age. But why wasn’t it a question for Romney?

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