Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who’s made no secret of his national ambitions, sat down over the weekend with the Fox affiliate in Milwaukee, which asked him about his possible presidential campaign. The Republican governor’s response seemed noteworthy.
“To me, I’m not going to run just because of the pundits or anything else like that. The closer you get to something like that the more you realize – and I say this only half-jokingly – that you have to be crazy to want to be president. And anyone who has seen pictures of this president or any of the former presidents can see the before and after. No matter how fit, no matter how young they are, they age pretty rapidly when you look at their hair any everything else involved with it.“Whether it’s two years, six years or 20 years from now – because I think of Hillary Clinton. I could run 20 years from now and still be about the same age as the former Secretary of State is right now.”
In context, the question the reporter asked was, “Do you have a sense that this is your moment?” There were no previous references to Clinton or ages; it was just what Walker had on his mind at the time, and he felt inclined to share the thought, no matter how gratuitous it was.
The Wisconsin governor’s comments come just a week after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was “none too subtly raising the issue of her age,” too.
To be sure, we’re still very much in the oblique phase of the debate, though Walker was more direct than Paul, so I’m not suggesting the left crank the Outrage-O-Meter to 11. Clinton has no doubt heard much more offensive criticism from Republican rivals before.
That said, this is an awkward game Republicans are playing.
As we discussed last week, there is an inevitability to all of this. Reagan, at age 69, faced questions about his age in 1980, as did John McCain in 2008 at age 72 and Bob Dole in 1996 at age 73. Clinton is 67 now, she’ll be 69 in 2016, and if she runs she’ll have to talk about this. I rather doubt this will be a problem for a possible Clinton campaign, but we’ll find out soon enough.
But GOP candidates and their allies have to realize that a preoccupation with this issue won’t do them any favors. Republicans are already struggling with a gender gap; the more they run around needlessly referencing Clinton’s age, the more they risk making matters worse.
Incidentally, the former Secretary of State is a half-year younger than Mitt Romney. That doesn’t seem to affect occasional chatter about his possible ambitions.