Is McCain’s age an issue? Only if voters want to make it one

May 9, 2008

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Is Republican John McCain‘s age an issue? Only if the American public want to make it one, the senior Arizona senator told reporters on Friday.
“I don’t take offense to it … If that’s what the American people want to discuss, that’s fine,” said McCain, who turns 72 in August and would be the oldest first-term president ever.
“I will continue to introduce them to my 96-year-old mother and display the same vigor and energy that I have been able to display throughout this campaign which allowed me to win the nomination of my party.”
To that end, the campaign is launching a television commercial on Mother’s Day on Sunday, showing McCain with his still vigorous mother, Roberta.
The commercial, dubbed “Johnny’s Mom,” shows mother and son chatting about his birth at a U.S. Navy base in Panama, where his father served as an officer.
“I’m told that on the table were 27 bottles of scotch, all presents to Johnny,” she said.
The issue of the Arizona senator’s age is a sensitive one for the campaign.
It sparked a dust-up this week after Democratic rival Barack Obama suggested McCain had “lost his bearings” after commenting that Islamist Palestinian group Hamas favors Obama for president.
A McCain adviser accused Obama, 46, of trying to raise the Republican candidate’s age as an issue, a charge denied by Obama’s campaign.
McCain revisited the issue on Friday. Hamas’ apparent favor for Obama was also of interest to American voters, he said.
“I think that’s of interest to the American people and that is something that needs to be discussed — why his policies should meet the approval of a spokesperson for Hamas. I believe it’s a legitimate point of discussion.”

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Chris Keane (McCain speaks at a campaign event in Charlotte, N.C., May 5, 2008) 


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

Why should his age be anymore of an issue than Obama being black or Hillary being a woman?

Posted by harry calihan | Report as abusive

I think that McCain’s age is an issue, and a very legitimate one. His mother’s age is not determinative on his life expectancy, but the ongoing stress of public office may be. He has had cancer operations plus other medical help. From my perspective, he is past his years of peak vigor and may be past his peak cognitive ability.

These are very challenging times with no end in sight to rising fuel costs and scarcity. I would prefer someone younger who might stay the course for eight years.

Reagan performed well as president due in large part to an extraordinary leadership style that served him well. McCain does not have a similar personality and leadership style. As a more confrontational person, with fewer people skills, his age will be a greater handicap.

Posted by Marvin McConoughey | Report as abusive

Yes, his age is a big issue. Not only his age but his health also is an issue

Posted by paul king-kocsis | Report as abusive

Yes McCain age is of importance to me. Why don’t we have good candidates? We have at least 20 million college educated adults in this country and these are the best candidates we can find. I say no to all of the above. We need better candidate for office; we don’t need a candidates who have been in Washington for ever, or a candidate that is a member of a political dynasty, or one who is a popularist; what kind of change is Obama offering us? Change can be positive or negitive. We got change GB; do you like the change he has given us? We need better candidates; America needs better candidates and we need them now.

Posted by Rick | Report as abusive

His age should not be a problem as long as he has Joe Lieberman with him always to scrutinize his answers and take him by the arm. ” Now John, remember what I said about Shiites and Sunnis”

Posted by Mary | Report as abusive

If Obama wants no racism, then he better watch his barbs about age discrimination! This man never ceases to amaze me..from Wright, to Ayers, to his wife’s comments and his own. Obama will never be the President of America. He is too Anti-American. It is almost scary.

Posted by Core Democrat | Report as abusive

57 states? Who’s lost his bearings Senator Obama?

Posted by robert stevesn | Report as abusive

Funny, every country’s leader is getting younger, including Rusia, France, England, China, Germany, Italy, Spain, even Cuba. But Republican party of this country goes backward. No wonder the party is going downhill and they want to drag this country down along the way. American people must realize how crucial this election is. If we are not be careful, we could be in big trouble in 21st century. Look around the world, we are the only major country that is engaged in a major war. War consumes resources, kills lives and weaken all countries involved. All empire failed because of wars.

Posted by Danny | Report as abusive

Age only makes Mccain’s running mate important. Obama’s inexperience, however, not only makes his running mate even more important, but is a mark against him.

Posted by Jeff | Report as abusive

His age is as much an issue as the so-called Hamas link. If he wants to hint that Obama is a Hamas sympathizer based on such a weak link, then it should be pushed on him how much of an old fart he is. LOL that’s called a bull crap equalizer. This is like saying since Saddam Hussein admired Ronald Reagan, then Reagan sympathized with SADDAM – OMG!!!! (That’s true about Saddam, it was in the news around June 20, 2005 if you want to look it up)

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive

Obama’s “lack” of experience and lack of legislative accomplishment will be the bigger issue.

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive

I support Obama, but he better chose his words carefully. People will forgive bad choice of words once or twice, but not on a daily basis.

I have equal respect for Obama and McCain. Obama gave his supporters stern warning not to engage in smear campaign, and he followed though with it. McCain on the other hand let his supporters engage in smear campaign, and he didn’t do much to stop them. That is a bad thing in my book.

Mccain’s age is not an issue. He has been through two wars. He can handle the pressure of Presiden’t job better than George “border-patrol” Bush, Bill “draft-dodger” Clinton, and Hillary “sniper-fire” Clinton.

If Obama becomes president, I think he will be a worn out man at the end of 8 years, especially because of the situation that this country is in right now. In case of McCain, I am slightly concerned that lobbyists will be in charge. If Hillary becomes president, then there is no question in my mind that this country will be run over by lobbyists. I’m a bit relieved that she won’t get that chance this time.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive

Age is irrelevant: Kennedy was (IIRC) the youngest elected President, yet he died before finishing his first term – and the country survived just fine. Reagan was the oldest, yet served two terms in good health.

As for McCain being past his peak, maybe so, but so what? You have to consider the height of the peak. After all, you could argue that the much younger G.W. Bush was at his peak when elected, but Bush’s peak was never higher than a Texas gopher hole.

Posted by james | Report as abusive

OF COURSE AGE SHOULD BE AN ISSUE!! Because your mamma is 96 years old has no implication on your life expectancy especially if you already a chronic disease like Cancer and possibly others yet to be revealed sooner than later.
As the world and the country wants to move on to the 21st century McCain and his cold war peers are seeking to drag us into a new cold war! He has made it clear his foreign policy is going to hinge of picking fights with Russia, China and others by dwelling in such fantasies as kicking Russia out of the G8 showing how little he knows how this club works. And he forget we BORROW MONEY FROM CHINA TO EVEN AFFORD THE TAX STIMULUS!!!
The new world order CAN NOT FUNCTION without the US, Russia and China – considering they are all nuclear armed to the teeth, and more so because Russia and China are fast becoming global economic powers – whether we like it or not.

Posted by Julius | Report as abusive

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Reader…

Age is not relevant. The Constitution specifies a minimum age, not a maximum.

What is relevant to this article is the way the subject matter slid all the way down the slippery slope of Mr. McCain’s age to Hamas.

The imaginary connection between Hamas and Mr. Obama is absolutely not relevant. Mr. McCain knows this very well, I’m sure.

It is this type of flagrant innuendo that republicans are (in)famous for. Mr. Bush’s father’s surrogates used it against Mr. Dukakis in 1988, and also against Mr. Clinton in 1992. To his credit, Mr. Dole avoided the use of innuendo in 1996, during his campaign against Mr. Clinton.

Mr. Bush’s surrogates used innuendo against Mr. McCain himself in 2000.

Mr. Bush’s surrogates again used it in 2004, against Mr. Kerry. Mrs. Clinton has used it against Mr. Obama as late as this year. Mr. McCain seems unable to resist the temptation of also using it against Mr. Obama.

The low road of innuendo is a route that Mr. Obama seems to have avoided. I hope that he continues to do so.

Unfortunately, it is the route that apparently can lead to the Oval Office.

Best Regards,
Oklahoma Jack

Posted by Oklahoma Jack | Report as abusive

Age alone is not an issue but when age is linked to health, especially mental health, it is a very great issue.

For a Presidential Candidate, mental health such as alertness and sharpness of mind are very important factors to assess his/her qualifications to lead a World Superpower such as the United States. In such an instance, mental health needs not encroach into the realms of real sickness or illness or disease, which if discovered would certainly disqualify a person to run for the Office of a US President – the Supreme Commander-in-Chief – as the risk is too great to be left to chance, even if backed-up by a few certified physicians or medical experts.

The deterioration in mental alertness and the inability to be fast enough to SPONTANEOUSLY size up a situation and seize an open opportunity, without the help of aides or assistants and afterthoughts, are very disadvantageous and sometimes detrimental characteristics of a leader and therefore highly undesirable if there are better choices available.

Food for thought? Cheers!

Lionel Png
From: Singapore (South-East Asia, not any part of China).

Posted by Lionel Png | Report as abusive

If age is going to be an issue then the youngster in the group should explain how his lack of experience is not a problem then. I hope that the rest of the election process is not going to be a nit-picking affair. We want to know where each candidate stands and how they are going to help America, all 57 states.

Posted by ray | Report as abusive

Interesting, when I heard Obama say that McCain had lost his bearings I believed him to mean he had strayed from the promise to run a clean campaign. Not until McCain’s campaign brought it up did I see how it could be taken.
These old people are too sensitive about their age.

Posted by cisca wikkeling | Report as abusive

Hello Cisca
I agree with your observation. I also didnt think Obama was referring to McCain’s age until the McCain guys brought it to my attention. The fact is that they wish and want to try to sweep the age issue under the rugs. But who is comfortable seeing a GREAT GRAND FATHER becoming president and leader of the world during these times of economic,climatic and other uncertainties? America and the world need someone who is up to date with the current issues not someone who is still stuck in the cold war mentality and may undo President Reagan’s achievements by reigniting the cold war because that he what he lived and he still has scores he will want to settle. That era is over. Sen. McCain needs nothing less than a decent retirement especially since he is one of the richest senators but hardly wants anyone to notice.

Posted by Julius | Report as abusive

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Reader…

I noticed something being said about Mr. Reagan’s achievements in this web log.

One of these achievements was to start this country down the quarter-century slide to fiscal and financial irresponsibility, beginning in 1981.

He did this by eliminating the need for the Privileged Class and Super Privileged Class to participate in paying this great nation’s bills.


By persuading a jaded and easily molded congress to go along with cutting the top marginal federal personal income tax rate from 69% to 28% during the first five years of Mr. Reagan’s eight years in office.

That rate is now at 35%. It needs to be ratcheted back up to 70%, while at the same time lowering the top marginal rate for the Middle Class and Working Class to no more than 20%…and preferably down to 15%.

I don’t know why it is, but somehow the majority of rural voters in this country have been persuaded over the years that rich folks like Mr. McCain can’t afford to pay their fair share of this country’s bills.

There is nothing in the rule book that says that the wealthy should have their taxes cut by the same percentage as those who actually work for a living.

Best Regards,
Oklahoma Jack

Posted by Oklahoma Jack | Report as abusive