Winning the election by a hair

In this space last May, we mentioned 26 potential candidates for the Republican nominee, one of whom will in all likelihood face Barack Obama in the Presidential election this fall. Of those named, all 26 are still alive and perhaps interested in the nomination, which may not be determined before the party’s Tampa convention in August. If the nomination has not been secured by then,  there will be a “brokered” convention with no one having a majority. If, after the first vote is taken and there is no clear winner, delegates pledged to a candidate may be released to vote for others or a state’s “favorite son.”      

During the year, these possible candidates have been vetted, a term used by farmers and buyers of horses when they call a veterinarian to check out an animal.  Some candidates fell by the wayside under examination of their personal lives. Failing to lead in the polls does not  mean that they will not be revived as a candidate for President or Vice-President or that they will not use their endorsement of the winner to secure a ranking position in a new administration.    

Let’s look beyond what potential candidates say they will do  because we know all are posturing to gain votes, and look at some of the incidental characteristics of the men (all males so far) who have actually become President.  Looking at the final two major party candidates for President over the years, it is apparent that the taller man almost always wins and, in most cases, the man with the longer name prevails. The most Presidents have come from Virginia, Massachusetts, Ohio, and New York.  Candidates with military service usually win, especially if they have been winning generals.    Most Presidents have been lawyers, most have been oldest sons, most have come from small towns, many have had last names ending in “son,” and all have had siblings--no only child has ever become President. Before being challenged on this, I point out that Franklin Delano Roosevelt, elected 4 times, had a half brother.  Small towns such as Plains, GA, Dixon, IL, and Hope, AR, have produced recent Presidents. Many presidents have been Episcopalians or Anglicans, followed by   Presbyterians, Baptists, other Protestant faiths, and one Roman Catholic.

The average age of past Presidents when first entering office has been about 55 years with the youngest being Teddy Roosevelt, 42, and the oldest Ronald Reagan at 70. Benjamin Harrison at 68 was the next oldest President and lived only 32 days in office.  Age is certainty a factor when considering those who aspire to the world’s most demanding job.  By Inauguration Day 2013, Rick Santorum will be 54. Mitt Romney will be 65, Newt Gingrich 69, and Ron Paul 77, thus giving a whole new meaning to Grand Old Party.

Peter Funt of The Wall Street Journal  pointed out that over the last half century, voters have unfailingly elected the candidate with the best hair – the guy with the lock on locks.

Kennedy defeated Nixon by a razor-thin margin. Nixon’s receding, slicked back ‘do was no match for the young, wavy head of hair from Massachusetts. Lyndon Johnson’s poor hairdo was frequently covered with a large cowboy hat. Nixon’s reemergence was made possible by Hubert Humphrey’s lack of hair.     

Jimmy Carter had a winning haircut because Gerald Ford had lost most of his. Ronald Reagan trimmed Carter’s chance for a second term. Michael Dukakis, in the famous 1988 photograph, covered a fine head of hair with an army helmet. Bill Clinton ushered in a new wave of hair, appealing to women, and the first Bush beat Bob “this is my natural color” Dole. George W. Bush managed to attract the “young gray” vote, although Al Gore was a hair’s breadth away from the Presidency.    

In 2008, America elected the first African-American haircut with Barack Obama’s victory over the aging, outdated lid of John McCain.

Also, 2008 brought out strong female candidates, including Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, who might have bad hair days, or could be caught in curlers at 3 a.m. when the red phone rings.

When it comes down to health care and hair care, the Republicans may win. No one knows how all this will comb out. Don’t waste time on Gallup and Pew. Some of us will be watching the barber poll.    Meanwhile, I’ll be taking a year or so off to run as an Independent for Vice-President, and will be looking for votes on Bald Head Island, NC.  (population 178) in a few weeks. I’m told the V-P doesn’t have to do anything, and I have a lot of experience along that line. Thanks to my bosses, Mark and Linda Fausz, for letting me write and for not telling me what to write, to Alice for her editing skills, and to you for reading.

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