A viewer asked this question on 8/21/2000:
Does anyone know who is the taller of the two main Presidential candidates, Gore and Bush? Gore seems to me to be taller. (George W. seems shorter than his father and Gore taller than Bush senior.) In the Presidential races since Franklin Roosevelt, the taller of the two main candidates seems always to have won. Truman was short but Dewey was shorter. Nixon and Kennedy were about the same but Kennedy had the edge - and the margin of his victory was appropriately slender. If Gore is clearly taller, why don't we call the whole thing off and just hand him the job? On the other hand, if no one is very certain which candidate is taller, is there some subliminal, instinctive awareness that guarantees that the "bigger" man will get the nod?
npscott gave this response on 8/21/2000:
As mentioned my response to the posting you made to my AskMe web page, the height of the two candidates, as given by their respective press offices at the White House and in Austin, TX, is:
Since you raise additional questions, I'll give a reply...
If you accept a proposition as valid, (whether it is or not) then you can swim endlessly in it as long as the basic premise seems to hold true.
For instance, as long as the taller of the presidential candidates wins, the proposition seems true.
But, you've used your 'noggin' as the saying goes, and asked, " If Gore is clearly taller,
why don't we call the whole thing off and just hand him the job?"
Good question. Carrying it a step further, why didn't the Democratic Party, feeling this 'taller' proposition true, nominate towering ex-basketball player, former Senator Bill Bradley?
The answer is, height has nothing to do with winning an election. Physical appearance does have some subconscious play with voters, depending on each individual.
And, being tall is valued in American as a physical characteristic.
However, the real decision-making factor in most voters mind's (which political scientist's, pollsters and party professionals know) is character, especially for the Office of the President.
This is why, when an opponent has a very appealing personality, and good looks, and issues the 'resonate' with voters, that his opponent will try to find something to 'smear' him with. Character is the bottom line when casting votes.
Well, given this, it seems Bush will win, since he's determined to pin the Lewinsky scandal to Gore.
It's true that President Clinton hurt the party greatly with his admittedly immoral behavior (which for some reason no end of apologizes from him seems to suffice with some).
And, in fact, that scandal has to some extent tainted Gore. But, Gore's biggest perception is his inadequate answers regarding a fund-raiser in a Buddhist Temple. This, not Clinton sexual behavior, has floated an image abroad that Gore is not as forthright as thought.
Additionally, Gore has a life-long natural reserve which puts an emotional barrier between him and voters. This hurts also, as voters seem to feel they don't have a 'handle' on who he really is.
Gore realizes this. No amount of 'speechifying' however, will change this perception. What will change it, are events where Gore reveals his character.
For instance, when Ronald Reagan was running for President the first time, two character issues were making headway against him:
1) He was too old, too passive to be a strong chief executive;
2) He was some sort of 'wild man' who was itching to get his finger on the nuclear trigger, and pull it.
Two events, not Reagan speeches, ended those negative perceptions.
The first occurred in New Hampshire when a moderator at a meeting which Reagan had scheduled and in a hall he had rented, told him he had talked too long.
Reagan's temper flared, and he snapped, "I paid for this microphone, Mr. Chairman!".
This controlled flash of temper and assertiveness belied the 'too old and passive, too hot-tempered' charge.
The second event was during a debate with Jimmy Carter. Carter, looking very angry, charged Reagan with a number of unpopular stands.
Reagan smiled, shook his head, and said, "There, there you go again," a response so mild-mannered and good natured, in contrast to Carter's angry manner, that Reagan destroyed his negative impression, under fire, of a 'wild man' seeking office.
* ** *** ****
So, you see, spontaneous events over which candidates have no control, often shape voter perceptions, and motive them to vote, or not vote for a candidate.
Negative events: Senator Edmund Muskey, who stood on a platform outside a newspaper office in New Hampshire (whose editor had viciously editorially attacked Muskey's wife) and delivered an intemperate tirade, while weeping.
End of his presidential campaign.
To see who will is gaining in this election, look for character issues that each party is attempting to exploit or create, and then watch the success of the opponent in responding.
And look for those spontaneous events which either tend to confirm, or deny, those character charges.
Then put this 'the taller candidate always wins' in the dustbin, where it belongs.
A viewer rated this answer:
Splendid answer. But physical presence is a factor, though not necessarily DECISIVE.
Has there been an occasion since FDR on which the shorter of the two main Presidential candidates has won?
Earlier, obesity was the badge of success. President Taft was 250 pounds - "weighty" physically and in political and moral substance. About the same size as J.P. Morgan whose weight and massive meals were right for the master of finance.
Perhaps obesity didn't make them great but an abundant size was in keeping with the colossus of government or finance their other attributes had enabled them to become.
Few people inside or outside the US knew FDR lived in a wheel-chair. Would he have been elected for four or even one term if he'd been seen as a cripple?
A sobering thought.
I'll still be interested to know whether the taller Gore, wins this year.
Thank you for your answer.
All the best.
... ["The Height of your Life"]
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