I'm not sure I find this persuasive, because of the difference between the two jobs. There are 435 Members of Congress-- if one of them is incapacitated, resigns, or even dies, it's not a big deal as far as the nation continuing to function. Indeed, a couple of Congressional seats routinely sit empty at any given time. So the average MoC is considerably less indispensable than the President.

Also, Americans think of the president (perhaps unfairly) as running the free world, or at least the part of the world that we're mainly concerned with. We think of members of congress as doing... well, not much. Giving their opinion repeatedly? Having an 85-year-old weigh in on problems is different from asking them to make all the decisions. Again, not saying this description is accurate or fair, but the average voter's perception is that the presidency is significantly harder and more taxing than being in Congress, and broadly speaking I think that much is true.

Finally, people are used to members of Congress sticking around until they're 90 or so. It's happened before. Biden is uniquely old for a presidential candidate, breaking a record just set by himself in 2020, and that seems like a potential sticking point.

For all these reasons, I'm not convinced Congressional elections tell us anything about this unique case. I might find consider evidence of how the oldest candidates have fared in other country's presidential or prime ministerial elections, but I think this is comparing apples and oranges...

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Feb 23Liked by Seth Masket

With all due respect, I think your take on this article may be rooted in the outdated and boring assumption that American voters are mostly apathetic to anything other than the presidential election cycle. Gone are the days where senators are obscure or inconsequential figures in the minds of voters and we would be silly to deny that senators are keenly aware of this fact.

However, you make some good points! I do think you’re right to believe that Americans make distinctions between congressional and presidential candidates and their duties.

Best wishes! xoxo

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Additionally, many of those very old representatives enjoy advantages a presidential candidate would never have. First, they only need to campaign on a limited geographic region, reducing many of the stresses involved in electioneering. Second, there is a lot of survival bias as the current representatives are mostly several-term incumbents that are safer bets for the party and donors. The old candidates who appear to have lost their vigor would probably just not run when that becomes an issue.

Comparing with other countries could work but N is still too small and concentrated (most presidential systems are in Latin America and Africa, culturally skewing the sample somehow). For this question I think we are better off with qualitative assessments and surveys, in that order.

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The positive correlation between age and vote share might represent incumbency. I imagine incumbents are on average older than non-incumbents.

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My response is speculative and based on anecdotal evidence, so take it with a grain of salt.

I think young people SAY they want younger candidates, but they don’t get involved with serious grass roots activity to get more young candidates out there.

“Activism” used to be getting off your couch, knocking on doors, running candidates for state legislatures and building farm teams for national positions, etc. Now it’s mostly going on social media to chide people.

So the process of candidates getting out there and running isn’t affected much by the anti-age impulse. Mostly this impulse results in lip service on social media rather than voting patterns.

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