Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Win The Presidency, Die Younger

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Winning a presidential election takes 3.4 years off your life.

    After George McGovern died, at the elderly age of 90, I got to wondering whether he would have lived as long if he’d won in 1972. The victor of that election, Richard M. Nixon, expired of a stroke at 81. It’s been said that the presidency ages a man two years for every year he holds it. Plus, assassinations are an occupational hazard.

    It made me wonder whether presidential losers enjoy longer lives than winners. So I looked at every election in which both major-party candidates have died, and in which the loser never served as president.

    Sure enough, winners lived an average of 68.8 years, while losers lived 72.2 years -- led by the hardy Alf Landon. Landon only won 8 electoral votes against Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936, but made it to 100. Roosevelt died in office, at age 63. (The most superannuated president, Gerald Ford, lived to be 93, but he served less than two-and-a-half years, and never won an election. Ronald Reagan also lived to be 93, but his never-served-as-president, Walter Mondale, is still alive at 84. The average lifespan of all presidents is 70.4 years.)

    Here’s the chart:

    1972: Richard Nixon, 81
              George McGovern, 90

    1968: Richard Nixon, 81
              Hubert Humphrey, 66

    1964: Lyndon Johnson, 64
              Barry Goldwater, 89

    1956: Dwight Eisenhower, 78
              Adlai Stevenson, 65

    1952: Dwight Eisenhower, 78
              Adlai Stevenson, 65

    1948: Harry Truman, 88
              Thomas E. Dewey, 68

    1944: Franklin D. Roosevelt, 62
              Thomas E. Dewey, 68

    1940: Franklin D. Roosevelt, 62
              Wendell Willkie, 52

    1936: Franklin D. Roosevelt, 62
              Alf Landon, 100

    1928: Herbert Hoover, 90
              Al Smith, 70

    1924: Calvin Coolidge, 60
              John W. Davis, 81

    1920: Warren G. Harding, 57
              James M. Cox, 87

    1916: Woodrow Wilson, 67
              Charles Evans Hughes, 86

    1908: William Howard Taft, 72
              William Jennings Bryan, 65

    1904: Theodore Roosevelt, 60
              Alton Parker, 73

    1900: William McKinley, 58
              William Jennings Bryan, 65

    1896: William McKinley, 58
              William Jennings Bryan, 65

    1884: Grover Cleveland, 71
              James G. Blaine, 62

    1880: James A. Garfield, 49
              Winfield Hancock, 61

    1876: Rutherford B. Hayes, 70
              Samuel Tilden, 72

    1872: Ulysses S. Grant, 63
              Horace Greeley, 61

    1868: Ulysses S. Grant, 63
              Horatio Seymour, 75

    1864: Abraham Lincoln, 56
              George McClellan, 58

    1860: Abraham Lincoln, 56
              Stephen Douglas, 48

    1856: James Buchanan, 77
              John Fremont, 77

    1852: Franklin Pierce, 64
              Winfield Scott, 79

    1848: Zachary Taylor, 65
              Lewis Cass,  83

    1844: James K. Polk, 53
              Henry Clay, 75

    1832: Andrew Jackson, 78
              Henry Clay, 75

    1816: James Monroe, 73
              Rufus King, 72

    1812: James Madison, 85
              DeWitt Clinton, 58

    1808: James Madison, 85
              Charles Pinckney, 79

    1804: Thomas Jefferson, 83
              Charles Pinckney, 79