If elected president Donald Trump would be the oldest person ever to hold the White House. But at 70, Trump upends many preconceptions about age.
Washington (dpa) – What do you give the mogul who has everything for his 70th birthday? Donald Trump hopes the answer will be the presidency.
Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, will turn 70 Tuesday and if elected in November, would be the oldest person ever to assume the presidency.
Ronald Reagan, who was less than a month shy of his own 70th birthday when he took office in 1981, put down questions about his age with a clever jab during a 1984 debate. “I will not make age an issue of this campaign,” he quipped. “I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience.”
But Trump is unlikely to face such questions from his opponent, Hillary Clinton, who is just a year younger than he and will turn 69 just days before the election.
Just a year ago, Trump was seen as an unlikely candidate destined to fizzle before the first votes were cast and talk was instead focused on whether Clinton would have to face a much younger, dynamic Republican challenger like Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz.
“The obvious generational difference will be an unavoidable topic,” warned analyst Geoffrey Skelley.
Instead, traditional dynamics of young and old, experience and inexperience have flown out the window with Trump, a political neophyte who upended ideas about what a presidential candidate should be like.
He even turned assumptions about age upside down, attacking the younger Jeb Bush as “low energy” and throwing similar language in Clinton’s direction.
Trump eschews the image of the restrained elder statesman, instead relishing the hand-to-hand combat of politics and adapting the tools of youths to land his punches.
Much of Trump’s bravado has been on display on Twitter and other social media and he bragged as recently about his large following on the platforms.
“You know, if I tweet something, CNN and Fox, all of a sudden they say, ‘We have breaking news,'" he said of the attention his words grab. "I'm sitting there tweeting, bing, bing, bing. ‘Donald Trump has just issued a major statement.’"
He dismissed critics who say he shouldn’t be using Twitter, although he himself has suggested it might not be presidential to spout off on the platform if he’s elected.
“They say, "You shouldn't use your Twitter." I say why? … We'll use anything we have to to win.”
While Clinton has also adapted the social media platforms, she comes off as much less of a natural online.
Even President Barack Obama jokingly compared her to an elderly aunt attempting to use Facebook for the first time.
“Hillary trying to appeal to young voters is a little bit like your relative who just signed up for Facebook,” Obama said to laughter in his monologue at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
“'Dear America, did you get my poke? Is it appearing on your wall? I'm not sure I am using this right. Love, Aunt Hillary.’"
Both Trump and Clinton have been on the national stage for decades, Trump as a feature on the New York real estate scene and a reality television star and Clinton as first lady and later a senator and secretary of state.
Clinton has sought to play on her years of experience to contrast with Trump, whom she declares “temperamentally unfit” to serve as president. Rather than fearing her age is a liability, she has frequently pointed out her role as a grandmother as she seeks to soften her tough image.
Both Clinton and Trump are members of the Baby Boomer generation born after World War II and shaped by the tumult of the 1960s. In fact, their election would mark a shift backward generationally from Obama who had sought to step away from the often divisive politics of Bill Clinton and George W Bush’s presidencies.
Both candidates have been cleared as medically fit to serve as president, and as life expectancy and quality of life have improved in the last century, age may well be less of a question than in the past.
But for older voters – who head to the polls at the highest rate – a candidate who speak directly to pressing issues like reforms for pensions and health care for the elderly may have an advantage. Trump for his part has vowed not to change the popular programmes despite calls from many inside his party for broad changes.