A White Guy in His 70s Will Be President in 2021

The women, minority, and non-geriatric candidates have been all but eliminated from the race.

WaPo’s Karen Tumulty quips,

A year ago, Democrats were tantalized by the prospect of fielding the most diverse array of presidential candidates ever. Among the upward of two dozen people running for their 2020 nomination were African Americans, Asian Americans, a Latino, a half-dozen women and a married gay man.

Who would have predicted that, as the race rounds the bend into Super Tuesday, the party’s choices would come down to three white guys, whose ages range all the way from 77 to 78? Now they are trying to figure out which of that trio from the Silent Generation has the best chance of beating another septuagenarian, President Trump, in November.

That a white person in their 70s would emerge as the Democratic nominee has been a near-certainty since the campaign began. Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren were the only three candidates in the top three throughout the year-plus campaign leading up to Iowa.

The only surprise is that Biden and Warren started so slowly that Mike Bloomberg entered the race and plunked down half a billion and counting to displace Warren from the top three.

There was never much of a chance that a non-white candidate would win the nomination.

There was a brief Kamala Harris boomlet after she successfully took on Biden’s past stance on criminal justice in an early debate. But it lasted exactly one week before she came crashing back to earth. She was out of the race before Iowa.

Cory Booker is brilliant and highly qualified but never caught on. It’s perhaps exasperating that the much-less-experienced Pete Buttigieg came out of nowhere and captured so much attention from the NPRs and elite podcasts of the world while his fellow Rhodes Scholar got ignored. But, regardless, Booker was out before Iowa.

Their fellow former mayor, Julian Castro, never had a serious shot at the nomination. Ditto Tulsi Gabbard.

Andrew Yang, like Buttigieg, brought up his name recognition considerably with his run. Like Buttigieg, he generated enthusiasm with the intelligentsia. But he never had a serious shot at the nomination.

It was quite conceivable for a while that Warren would win the nomination. Biden’s star seemed to be falling and she’s rather obviously smarter and more capable than Sanders. But, for whatever reason, she fell behind him well before Iowa and has fared so poorly in the four contests thus far that she is now an afterthought despite two straight solid debate performances.

Amy Klobuchar never caught on. We’ve already discussed Harris and Gabbard. And I’d forgotten Kirsten Gillibrand even ran before selecting an image for the post.

So, that leaves us, as Tumulty notes, with three white guys between 77 and 78 facing off for a chance to run against Trump, who turns 74 this summer. Yes, I’m presuming none of them will die between now and November.

In my ideal world, Bloomberg, who entered the race to ensure Sanders didn’t win the nomination in the event Biden’s freefall continued, would now drop out and put his resources behind electing Biden. But that’s almost certainly not going to happen until at least Wednesday.

Trump is easily the oldest man ever elected President for the first time (Ronald Reagan was slightly older when he was re-elected in 1984). It’s quite likely that he’ll be the younger man in the race this November.

Is that bizarre? Absolutely. But it’s likely the reality.

Now, a brokered convention is still a possibility—even a likelihood. But, absent tragedy, Sanders and Biden will almost certainly enter the convention with far and away the most delegates, with Bloomberg probably third. It’s not inconceivable that Warren somehow becomes the compromise candidate, on the theory that she’d be more likely to keep the Bernie Bros than Biden or Bloomberg. But I’d bet a whole lot more money on a Biden-Bloomberg-Buttigieg coalition winning the day.

My guess is that Harris or Warren—likely Harris—will be the Vice Presidential nominee.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Mike Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    Depressing. On the bright side for political junkies, regardless of who wins in November, there will be a wild and woolly 2024 primary season and none of these guys will be seeking reelection.

    And for a wild card for the coming months, all the likely candidates are in a demographic that is at high risk from the Covid-19 virus.

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  2. Slugger says:

    I’m in my mid-seventies retired after a successful career that included starting a business, running the business, being on the boards of for profit and not for profit organizations. My observation is that the optimum combination of experience, wisdom, energy, and freedom from distracting passions occurs between the ages of 52 to 64. Yes, there are exceptions, but if I where on a corporate board now and we were searching for a CEO, I’d would be very chary about guys in their mid-seventies. Us old dudes can be fun to have lunch with, full of stories and jokes, but after lunch it’s best to take a nap, not sit in the Oval Office.

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  3. James Joyner says:

    @Slugger:

    My observation is that the optimum combination of experience, wisdom, energy, and freedom from distracting passions occurs between the ages of 52 to 64.

    That’s about right. I’m 54 and have less energy than I did earlier but much more wisdom and experience. I’d be a better President now than I would have ten years ago. Because I got a late start on the kids front, I have more “distracting passions” than is typical at my age.

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  4. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Say what you will… I’m voting for Warren in the Colorado primary.

    Watching George Snuffalufagus, my wife asked if Sanders and Biden were the only two still in the race, as they were the only two getting any attention and airtime. Looking for the right answer, I found:
    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/us/politics/2020-presidential-candidates.html

    I laughed… Tulsi Gabbard is still officially in the race, after 21 other DEM candidates have dropped out. (21 !!! )

    Who is still funding her run? and What, Exactly, Is Tulsi Gabbard Up To?

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  5. James Joyner says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    Watching George Snuffalufagus, my wife asked if Sanders and Biden were the only two still in the race, as they were the only two getting any attention and airtime

    I think that’s the perfectly reasonable thing for the Sunday shows to do hours after Biden emerged as the only real challenger to Sanders.

    Say what you will… I’m voting for Warren in the Colorado primary.

    That’s a perfectly reasonable signaling mechanism in Colorado but Warren is likely to emerge with no delegates there. 538 has it as a tossup between Sanders and Klobuchar (indeed, it’s the only Super Tuesday state where she’s in the conversation).

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  6. Hal_10000 says:

    @Slugger:

    My observation is that the optimum combination of experience, wisdom, energy, and freedom from distracting passions occurs between the ages of 52 to 64.

    Agreed. Most presidents have been in that age range. What we’re seeing right now is the “lost generation” of Democrats as they collapsed at the state level under Obama — hemorrhaging House seats, state legislative seats and governorships. That’s where you build your farm team for future Presidents and they spent a decade not building it. And they’re paying the price now.

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  7. Scott says:

    A White Guy in His 70s Will Be President in 2021

    Blechh

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  8. Gustopher says:

    @Hal_10000: Except we’re actually going backwards. Clinton, Bush and Obama are all younger. That’s way more than a bad decade coming back to haunt us.

    The younger candidates just failed to catch on — Booker, Bullock, Hickenlooper, Harris, Gilibrand, etc. All perfectly plausible candidates. The Democrats got a shellacking during the Obama presidency, but it wasn’t a complete annihilation.

    I think the answer is simpler — the old people haven’t stepped off the stage. Biden sucked the air out of the room on the establishment side and Bernie did the same on the progressive side.

    Whether it’s pure arrogance, or the miracles of modern medicine, they have the hubris to believe that they are up to the job. And, they have stronger national followings than the Governor of Montana, or the Senator from New Jersey.

    But, we can probably rest assured that the near-winners of this nomination process won’t dominate the next…

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  9. Jim Brown 32 says:

    The proliferation of wedge issues as a substitute for an actual platform combined with the current media environment will keep talented people with leadership, charisma, and strategic policy skills away from politics.

    No one with choices, who isn’t a narcissist would want to deal with uneducated votes, schiesty peer, and disingenuous media personalities stoking outrage over every decision made. There more money to be made and more options to help people than the political path. We will continue to see poor quality as the norm with occasional appearances of good candidates

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  10. Scott F. says:

    @Gustopher:

    I think the answer is simpler — the old people haven’t stepped off the stage.

    Candidates and voters alike…

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  11. Andy says:

    @James Joyner:

    That’s a perfectly reasonable signaling mechanism in Colorado but Warren is likely to emerge with no delegates there. 538 has it as a tossup between Sanders and Klobuchar (indeed, it’s the only Super Tuesday state where she’s in the conversation).

    I’m in Colorado as well and maybe I’m missing something, but the 538 link you shared shows Kobouchar with a zero percent chance to win and earning zero delegates in Colorado.

  12. Scott says:

    @Scott F.: Which is why I was (and still am) for Buttigieg. Would also have been happy with Klobuchar, Harris, Booker, Hickenlooper, Inslee, or anyone younger. I’ve been an out and out agist. Us baby boomers need to ride off into the sunset.

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  13. James Joyner says:

    @Andy: I read the chart wrong somehow. I was looking at Minnesota, which is a line above. And makes a lot more sense, since that’s Klobuchar’s home state.

    It looks like Bernie is poised to absolutely run away with it. In that case, signaling your distaste for him is cost-free. Biden had a 7 percent chance of winning when they did the estimate. Obviously, that’s up now but not enough to really matter.

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  14. Andy says:

    @James Joyner:

    It looks like Bernie is poised to absolutely run away with it.

    That appears to be the case.

    But a complicating factor is that many people in Colorado have already voted. We got ballots over a week ago. Most of my friends here sent them in already.

  15. Mister Bluster says:

    @Scott F.:

    …the old people haven’t stepped off the stage.

    Candidates and voters alike…

    I’m 72. Not sure if you want me to be deprived of my franchise or my life.
    In either case…get bent.

  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    I’m 65 and in good health, n ever had a serious illness. I’m still cranking out the words on paper about as fast as before.But I do not believe people my age or older should be president.

  17. Scott F. says:

    @Mister Bluster: Ok fellow boomer, take a deep breath. I don’t want you dead or staying home. I’d like you to consider future generations’ concerns over your own when you go vote.

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  18. Mister Bluster says:

    test

  19. Mister Bluster says:

    ….I don’t want you dead or staying home.
    I am so relieved…

    Please do not assume anything about my motivations when I step inside the voting booth.

  20. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    You have at least another 20 years of writing in you, if the careers of some of my old (literally) friends are any indication.

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  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    Buttigieg is out.

  22. Mister Bluster says:

    Buttigieg is out.

    Wise move.

  23. EddieInCA says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Proving again that Buttigieg is very smart. He and Steyer understand that they don’t have a path. I don’t understand how Klobuchar thinks she still has a path. I don’t understand how Warren thinks she still has a path. I don’t understand how Bloomberg thinks he still has a path. None of them can get African-American votes. How are they viable long term.

    Pete is in the “anyone but Bernie” camp. His statement makes clear that he wants to bring the party together against Bernie

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  24. Michael Reynolds says:

    @CSK:
    Writing, maybe. But my work day is from about 9 AM with coffee to 2 PM when I spark up. Half of that 5 hours is not work. I sit under an umbrella, smoke a cigar and contemplate the Griffith Park Observatory. I’ve managed to essentially retire while still working. We’re pitching a TV series at the moment and that would be an actual job. I’d have to wear grown-up clothes and show up at a particular time and place and not smoke cigars. And there would be people. I’m ambivalent about that.

  25. Michael Reynolds says:

    @EddieInCA:
    If Biden wins Buttigieg has a cabinet level job. Given that has no chance at statewide office in Indiana, it was smart. And he one-ups Klobuchar by taking the first bullet. We may see him again down the road.

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  26. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Re a tv series: Think of William Faulkner, who did a stint as a Hollywood screenwriter. When it became intolerable to him, he’d repeat to himself, “I get paid on Friday. I get paid on Friday. I get paid on Friday…”

    Works for me.

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  27. An Interested Party says:

    I’m 72. Not sure if you want me to be deprived of my franchise or my life.
    In either case…get bent.

    This is a normal and typical reaction that most elderly people would have, so in the end, it isn’t too puzzling or mysterious why the next president will be someone in his 70s…

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  28. Mister Bluster says:

    This is a normal and typical reaction that most elderly people would have,..

    Who’s left but old fuksticks like me?

  29. CSK says:

    @Mister Bluster:
    Fukstick…I like it.

  30. Kurtz says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    You don’t think VP?

  31. al Ameda says:

    I’m a Boomer, and I have to tell you, when I look at this field of ‘finalists’ – Biden, Warren, Sanders, Trump, Bloomberg – I’m a bit depressed.

    One Boomer – Trump – heads up a Vichy Goverment, and the others do nothing that inspires me to believe (convinces me) that they can motivate enough Democratic voters to show up and vote to overthrow the Vichy Government.

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