Is Hillary Clinton “Too Old” To Become President?

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on June 30, 2013 – 8:24 pm

Some Republicans have hatched a new plan to defeat possible 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton — by saying she’s too old and “out of touch” for the job.

According to Saturday’s New York Times, some Republican politicians, strategists, and media figures are already trying to weaken the former Secretary of State. Here are some of their noteworthy comments:

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY): He “ridiculed the 2016 Democratic field as “a rerun of ‘The Golden Girls.’”

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA): “The reality is, when you look at the Democrats, they’ve got old, tired ideas being produced by old, tired candidates.”

Rush Limbaugh (Radio host): “Asked his audience in April whether the American people ‘want to vote for somebody, a woman, and actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?’”

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Now, I may surprise you by saying this, but questioning Hillary Clinton’s age is appropriate, and doing so isn’t necessarily sexist. (Rush Limbaugh’s quote, however, is a good example of going way over the acceptable line.)

Older men have faced identical scrutiny—in fact, Mrs. Clinton’s husband used similar attacks to win the presidency against George H.W. Bush in 1992 and to win re-election against Bob Dole in 1996. John McCain’s age was also a factor in his campaign, as was his health record (like McCain, Mrs. Clinton recently had a rather serious health scare).

If men’s age often becomes a campaign issue, it seems acceptable to make a woman’s age a campaign issue as well.


But Is It Smart?

Republicans may be able to credibly defend themselves against charges of sexism for making Mrs. Clinton’s age an issue. Nonetheless, I suspect their strategy will backfire, and probably badly. As any smart man should know, few women respond favorably to negative comments about their looks or age. And even though the attacks may be “valid,” attacks on a woman’s age have a different potency than similar attacks on men; I suspect that even many Republican-leaning independent voters will bristle at them. 

There’s a history here. Women resent men acting condescendingly toward a female candidate.



In 1984, for example, Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro ripped George H.W. Bush, the incumbent Vice President, for his patronizing tone:



During a New York Senate debate, Republican candidate Rick Lazio aggressively approached Ms. Clinton’s lectern. He handed her a paper pledge to refuse any soft money to the campaign—but the move was widely seen as inappropriate and boorish. Mr. Lazio lost the once-close race by double digits.




After winning the Iowa caucus, Senator Barack Obama was widely expected to win the pivotal New Hampshire primary and cruise to an easy nomination. But after taking a gratuitous swipe at Senator Clinton’s likeability in a debate held just days before the vote, female voters handed Ms. Clinton an unexpected victory, helping to extend her campaign for months.


Playing Into Clinton’s Hands

Republicans are playing a dangerous game, and I can’t help thinking that the Clinton people will welcome this attack. As the 2008 example shows, Mrs. Clinton is adept at using public sympathy for her personal political gain.

Plus, she has one convenient fact in her back pocket: She’d be 68-years-old when sworn in for her first term. Conservative hero Ronald Reagan was 69.

What do you think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Posted in Election 2016 | 2 Comments »

Bobby Jindal: Election 2012 Preview

Written by Brad Phillips on September 28, 2010 – 7:26 am

This is the eighth in a weekly series looking at possible 2012 presidential contenders. Click here to learn more about the series.

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), a 39-year-old Indian-American who became the nation’s youngest governor when elected in 2007, is considered by many to be one of the brightest young stars of the Republican party. A Rhodes Scholar, he studied at England’s Oxford University.

He has some gifts as a communicator, but does he have the seven traits that all eight winning presidential candidates have had since the beginning of the 24/7 media age in 1980?

He’s strongest on articulating a clear vision for the future, and paints a picture of creating cross-aisle solutions. In fact, he uses the word “bipartisan” five times during the six minute clip below. That gives his messaging a bit of forward-thinking optimism, a trait regularly rewarded by general election voters.

“I think there are productive solutions that conservatives can offer. It’s not enough just to point out why we’re opposed to the other side – I think we’ve done that well and I think we have reasons to worry about the tax and spending increases – but now’s the time to show how our ideas can actually move the country forward.”

As you’ll see in the clip below, Mr. Jindal displays a mastery of policy and delivers his points with confidence. 

I’ll review Mr. Jindal’s flaws as a communicator and give him his grade after the clip. 



Gov. Jindal speaks a bit too much like a Rhodes Scholar. In the interview above, he uses words and phrases such as, “segregating risk,” “tort reform,” “demonstration projects,” and “transparency of pricing and outcomes on the Internet.”

Those words mean little to a large percentage of the electorate – I’ve followed politics closely for 15 years and have no idea what Demonstration Projects are. (According to C-SPAN, they are funded by the federal government in order to test new technology or policies” for “technology which might not find private funding.”)

Although he has an  “intellectual” charisma, I question whether he’s going to be able to reach a broad public on a more visceral level.

Mr. Jindal would be well-advised to drop the awkward smile that follows many of his answers. He comes across as authentic during the rest of the interview, but the forced smile undoes some of his otherwise good delivery.

You may know Gov. Jindal primarily for his disastrous response to President Obama’s 2009 Joint Session Address. After that widely-panned performance, Mr. Jindal was unfavorably compared to 30 Rock’s Kenneth the Page.


But my sense is that Gov. Jindal is smart and self-aware enough to learn from that mistake. Mr. Jindal has several of the seven winning traits, and he would likely fare well during a general election.


To see the other candidates I’ve reviewed so far, click on their names: John Thune, Mitt Romney, Haley Barbour, Newt Gingrich, Jeb Bush, Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum,Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Gary Johnson, Jim DeMint, Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama

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Posted in Election 2012 (GOP) | Please Comment »

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  • About Mr. Media Training

    The Mr. Media Training Blog offers daily tips to help readers become better media spokespersons and public speakers. It also examines how well (or poorly) public figures are communicating through the media.

    Brad Phillips is the Founder and Managing Editor of the Mr. Media Training Blog. He is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in NYC and DC.

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    Before founding Phillips Media Relations in 2004, Brad worked as a journalist with ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN's Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang.

    Brad tweets at @MrMediaTraining.

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    Before joining Phillips Media Relations in 2011, Christina worked as a journalist with NBC News, where she produced stories for MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show.

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