Hillary Clinton Gives Foreign Policy Economics Address In New York
Updated: August 4, 2013 6:24AM
The GOP has all kinds of high-priced political consultants, but the average Republican is justified in asking what the party is getting for its money.
This past week, the party’s professional pols began rolling out an attack on Hillary Rodham Clinton, the presumptive Democratic front-runner for president in 2016, revolving around the theme that at age 69 she would be too old for the job.
Sometimes, this tactic works. Age worked against both Bob Dole and John McCain but, despite Democrats’ best efforts, Ronald Reagan’s age appeared to be a nonstarter. In a 1984 presidential debate with Democratic candidate Walter Mondale, Reagan, then 73, famously quipped that he would not “make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”
Republican consultant Karl Rove, who was spectacularly wrong about the outcome of the 2012 election and, at 62, hardly an advertisement for the party’s youth movement, told The New York Times that it was time for Clinton’s generation to get off the stage.
“The idea that we’re at the end of her generation and that it’s time for another to step forward is certainly compelling,” Rove said. Three of the party’s rising stars are of a different generation: Marco Rubio is 42, Paul Ryan is 43 and Rand Paul is 50.
Unfortunately, Rove probably represents the high road. Taking the low road, Rush Limbaugh managed to combine both sexism and ageism, asking if Americans were ready to “watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis.”
That prompted Newsweek/Daily Beast columnist Michael Tomasky to observe: “If he has the reach we’re told he has, he creates 10 new Clinton voters every time he opens his fat mouth.”
The question, for someone watching from the sidelines, is why the Republicans would pick this fight at all.
Republicans did better than Democrats with voters 65 and older in the last presidential election: 56 percent voted for Republican Mitt Romney. But among women voters as a whole, 56 percent supported President Barack Obama.
Even given some Republicans’ teeth-grinding detestation of Hillary Clinton, the stakes are a lot higher for Republicans than merely venting their political pique. The census says there are 17 million men age 65 and older, most of them reliably Republican voters. But there are 22 million women in that age group, an edge of 56.4 to 43.6 percent. It hardly seems worth gratuitously alienating a bloc that large — and one that’s growing rapidly.
Dale McFeatters is an editorial writer for USA Today.