Oh Willard! Where Art Thou?

Age of presidents when assuming office approximately follows a bell curve (mean age marked by red line). Source: Wikipedia

Psst. Don’t tell anyone, but I know a little something the Mitt Romney campaign doesn’t want a lot of people to know. And, unlike them, I have no scruples about sharing it.

The cat is old.

I don’t mean “old” in the sense that it’s time for the rockin’ chair. I mean “old” in presidential terms.

Willard Mitt Romney was born March 12, 1947. He’s 65 years old.

Look at the clues. Fact #1: His name is Willard. Normally at this point I’d say, “I rest my case.” But I want to blather on for a bit more.

Exclusive: Abyss scientists have calculated that the first name “Willard” ranked 124.8 in popularity in the United States during the years 1880 through 1946. Mitt’s parents, by selecting the name Willard, simply went along with a trend of the times.

Since Mitt was born, however, the name has taken a beating. The first name “Willard” has dropped in popularity to a whopping rank of 491.2. (Based on years 1947 through 1989, the last year for which data is available.)

No wonder he goes by the name Mitt. He single-handedly made the name uncool. (See below for the graph I made. The higher the bar, the less popular the ranking of the name.)

Keep reading for much much more exclusive presidential election coverage from the Abyss. Did I mention this coverage is exclusive? No one else would think up shit like this.

Click to enlarge. Data source: BabyCenter.com

Results of an Abyss/GRIPE poll:

How old is Barack Obama and Mitt Romney?

Barack Obama: 52
Mitt Romney: 54

Survey Methods
Results for this Abyss poll are based on personal interviews conducted May 20, 2012, with a random sample of 1 respondents, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Conclusion: Mitt looks good for his age. Barack Obama is actually 50 years old and Mitt Romney is 65.

Can you remember 1947, the year of Mitt’s birth? I sure can. Oh man oh man, what a year!

  • Proceedings of the U.S. Congress are televised for the first time.
  • A shipwreck near Athens, Greece kills 392.
  • The Communists take power in Poland.
  • A meteor creates an impact crater in Sikhote-Alin, in the Soviet Union.
  • Cold War: The Voice of America begins to transmit radio broadcasts into Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
  • U.S. Army Ordnance Corps Hermes project V-2 rocket Blossom I launched into space carrying plant material and fruitflies, the first animals to enter space.
  • In New York City, Edwin Land demonstrates the first “instant camera”, his Polaroid Land Camera, to a meeting of the Optical Society of America.
  • John C. Hennessy, Jr., brings the first Volkswagen Beetle to the United States. He purchased the 1946 VW from the U.S. Army Post Exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, while serving in the U.S. Army. The Beetle was shipped from Bremerhaven.
  • The International Monetary Fund begins to operate.
  • The 19th Academy Awards ceremony is held. The movie Best Years of Our Lives wins the Academy Award for Best Picture, along with several other Academy Awards.
  • Jackie Robinson, the first African American in modern Major League Baseball, signs a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and becomes the first African American to play in the major leagues.
  • The movie Miracle on 34th Street is first shown in theaters.
  • U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall outlines the Marshall Plan for American reconstruction and relief aid to Europe.
  • SAAB produces its first automobile.
  • A supposedly downed extraterrestrial spacecraft is reportedly found in the Roswell UFO incident, near Roswell, New Mexico, which was written about by Stanton T. Friedman.
  • U.S. President Harry S. Truman signs the National Security Act of 1947 into law, creating the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the National Security Council.
  • After being shut down on November 9, 1946, for a refurbishment, the ENIAC computer, the world’s first electronic digital computer, is turned back on again. It next remains in continuous operation until October 2, 1955.
  • The Muslim majority region formed by the Partition of India gain independence from the British Empire and adopts the name Pakistan.
  • The greater Indian subcontinent with a mixed population of Hindus, Muslims,Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Jews, etc. formed by the Partition of India gain independence from the British Empire and retains the name India.
  • President Harry S. Truman delivers the first televised White House address speaking on the world food crises.
  • The United States Air Force test pilot, Captain Chuck Yeager, flies a Bell X-1 rocket plane faster than the speed of sound, the first time it has been accomplished.
  • A war begins in Kashmir, along the border between India and Pakistan.
  • In Long Beach, California, the designer and airplane pilot Howard Hughes carries out the one and only flight of the Hughes H – 1 Hercules seaplane, the largest fixed-wing aircraft ever built and flown. This flight only lasted eight minutes.
  • The program Meet the Press makes its television debut on the NBC-TV network in the United States.
  • The U.S. House of Representatives votes 346 – 17 to approve citations of Contempt of Congress against the so-called Hollywood 10, after the ten men refuse to co-operate with the House Un-American Activities Committee concerning allegations of communist influences in the movie business. (The ten men are blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studios on the following day.)
  • The Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Marlon Brando in his first great role, opens at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway. Jessica Tandy also stars as Blanche Du Bois.
  • The Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is introduced.
  • Cambridge University begins to admit women as full students.
  • Raytheon produces the first commercial microwave oven.
  • Notable Deaths: Al Capone and Henry Ford.

Reporter’s Notebook: This reporter has long been embedded in local politics. During a campaign a few cycles back for a county position, there was one candidate who stood by a local landmark, held a sign, and waved and smiled in a friendly manner at constituents passing by in their fossil-fuel-powered combustion-engine vehicles. Let us call this person Mr. CCFCP. (That stands for “Coo Coo For Cocoa Puffs,” sometimes used informally and cruelly by persons in the mental health profession to describe people who are batshit insane.)

When visiting a local business, this reporter was asked for his opinion regarding the local election. Before answering, I queried everyone in the office.

“How many of you will be voting on this particular seat?” Everyone present indicated they would be performing their civic duty. Next I asked how many people were voting for Mr. CCFCP. I got a whopping 100% percent response in the affirmative.

I was incredulous. What, pray tell, was their selection criteria? Did they know his position on any local issues? No. Did they know his background or qualifications? No. Did they even know his political party even though the position in question was the mythical beast known as “non-partisan?” No.

Click to enlarge. Graph shown in the spirit of the equal-time rule. Data source: BabyCenter.com

What could it be, I wondered? Just what in the name of all holy fuck shit were they basing their votes on? How in the hell did the people in this business arrive at an amazing 100 percent group consensus?

“We see the guy out there every morning on the way to work and every evening on the way home. He always smiles and waves us. He seems like a very nice guy.”

Holy mother of God.

We were talking about a guy who would literally wipe our county off the face of the Earth with a nuclear explosion. Don’t ask me how, but he would find a way. The dude was insane. (That’s my official reporter’s opinion.) Not quite frothing at the mouth, to be sure. To the outside world he looked normal enough. He held it together well enough to fool the sheeple who were otherwise too busy to do something like research and make actual informed judgements.

Luckily the dude only got two percent of the vote and life went on as it should (and I didn’t get vaporized by an atom bomb) but I never forgot the lesson of that incident. Democracy can be truly frightening.

So Mitt looks good for his age. So good that people don’t bother to know. Now don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with his age per se. I have nothing against people who are 65 or older. I have no doubt that it is possible they can still make great presidents, have awesome mental function, and yada yada. The probabilities do come into play, however. For example, there is a greatly likelihood that they may die in office. That probability of that may be a small number, but it does, in fact, exist.

I find it interesting that Mitt’s age puts him on the very last bar on the Wikipedia graph above. His age is on the outer edge of that bell curve. In fact, if elected, Mitt Romney would be the fourth oldest president of all-time on his inauguration day. Only James Buchanan #15 (age 65), William Henry Harrison #9 (age 68) and, of course, the all-time champ, Ronald Reagan #40 (age 69.9) would be older. (Source: Wikipedia.)

When it comes to a question of age in a president, I ask myself this question: “Is this particular candidate the right outlier for this job?” This was, for example, a question I asked when it was Barack Obama vs. John McCain. That particular race featured the largest ever age gap between the two final presidential candidates. John McCain, if elected at age 72, would have broken the record. There was a lot to like and admire about John McCain, and I still agree with much of what he has to say, but I just didn’t think he was the right outlier.

Now I went and made myself all curious. How has age played historically in presidential elections?

Four out of five dentists agree: In four out of five of the last presidential elections (since 1992) the younger candidate emerged victorious. The only exception that bucks this trend is in 2000 when George W. Bush “defeated” Al Gore (who still won the popular vote). And in that case the age difference was only 1.7 years so it was basically a non factor.

I then went further back in time. All the way back to 1900. Including 1900, there have been a total of 28 presidential elections.

“Modern Era” – 1900 through 1952 (14 elections): Older candidates won 11 times, younger candidates won 3 times

“Ancient Era” – 1956 through 2008 (14 elections): Older candidates won 7 times, younger candidates won 7 times

That seems very telling. One possible interpretation might be that back then society placed much more emphasis on age and wisdom than it does now. I do offer two caveats regarding this conclusion, though. First, this is a rather small data set so we shan’t read too much into things. Secondly, 10 out of 28 of the contests involved candidates with an age difference of less than five years. And in six of those the difference was less than two years. In those, contents we can likely conclude that age wasn’t much of a factor if at all.

When the age difference between the candidates was 20 years or more, the younger candidate won 3 out of 4 times. The only exception there was when Franklin D. Roosevelt handed that younger whippersnapper Thomas E. Dewey his ass. At only 42.7 years old in 1944, Dewey was the youngest candidate (since 1900) to brashly make such a presidential bid. (He was even younger than JFK who successfully pulled it off.) Within the study period, Roosevelt’s 1944 victory is the record holder of greatest age difference with the older candidate winning. 1944 was also, incidentally, Roosevelt’s fourth presidential victory in a row.

What does this all mean? Hell if I know. But Obama is 14.7 years younger than Romney. And based on recent history, I can see why the Romney campaign seeks to minimize that aspect of their candidate. “Get out there and look young,” they must be whispering into his hearing aid before every public appearance.

Data (sourced from Wikipedia) in a spreadsheet I built for this study.

7 responses

  1. Best Years Of Our Lives is a wonderful piece of America that deserves to be celebrated for all times.
    Mittens Romney? Not so much.
    Nice tune!


    1. I’ve never seen it (or even heard about it) but after writing this piece I wanted to check it out. Unfortunately Best Years Of Our Lives is not on Netflix streaming. Oh well.

      Tom Rozum (on lead vocals) and Laurie Lewis make an awesome team. That’s one of my favorite songs they do.


  2. The change is TV — plain and simple. Older people might sound (and actually be) wiser, but they look terrible, and are often lumpy. Reagan got past it by having that eye-twinkle and being so dang fit for his age — the horse-riding, wood-chopping son-of-a-gun.


    1. Good point. I failed to consider the role of technology in helping shape our changing opinions. I just figured old people and their wisdom were considered more hip back then. Today they’re more passé.


      1. Don’t diss old people, you little whippersnapper!


  3. I’m not, I’m not! I’m just an observer of sociological phenomenon and presidential trivialities. My main point here is that Romney is pushing the edge of the bell curve and I’m not sure he’s the right person to be that kind of outlier. He seems much more suited to being an average Gus.

    What do you think?

    Oh shit. I just realized that I’ve now offended people 65 and older and people named Gus. Anyone 65 and older who is also named Gus exponentially hates me now. 🙂


  4. […] This is part two in our exclusive and ongoing series of Mitt Romney investigative reports. You can read our exclusive exposé of Mitt Romney’s hidden age here. […]


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