Politics

Why is the 2016 Democratic field so old?

Why are the Democrats running for president so old? Blame the Clintons.

There are five Democrats who have either declared or are thinking about running for president. Three — Joe Biden, Bernard Sanders, and Jim Webb — will be over 70 years old on Inauguration Day 2017. Frontrunner Hillary Clinton will be nine months short of 70. Only Martin O'Malley, who will turn 54 a couple of days before the 2017 swearing-in, has not reached retirement age already.

In 2008, Democrats had a 47 year-old candidate who mesmerized the party and ran away with the votes of Americans aged 18 to 29. Republicans, meanwhile, ran a 72 year-old man whose reputation was based on heroism in a war 40 years earlier. Youth won.

This time the situation is reversed. The average age of the Republican field is far below the Democrats, with every candidate younger than Clinton. The most senior is Jeb Bush, who will be 64 on Inauguration Day. Scott Walker will be 49; Marco Rubio will be 45; Ted Cruz, 46; Rand Paul, 54; Chris Christie, 54; Mike Huckabee, 61; Bobby Jindal, 45. Although Bush is in the older range, they're all in the career sweet spot to win the White House.
What accounts for the Democrats' dramatic change from the party of youth to the party of age?

"It's the snuffing out of young talent by the strength and size and sheer velocity of the inevitable nominee," says a well-connected Democratic strategist. "The Clintons took all the air out of the collective Democratic room. There are a lot of people who would be running who are much younger, but they've got their future in front of them, and they don't want the Clintons to ruin it, in this campaign or after this campaign. So they're waiting for a moment when there is enough oxygen to run."

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