As the presidential race heats up, presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, will be more present in the public eye. Politics aside, more often than not, the best looking candidate often wins the presidential race. Judging looks and appearances for the prospective presidential candidate is more debatable in some years versus others.
Since the dawn of television’s mass influence, the appearance of the candidate may play a larger role than we realize. The classic example of this is the John F. Kennedy / Richard Nixon presidential debate in the 1960s. Kennedy, with his obvious inherent looks, took things further by electing to wear makeup for television while Nixon did not. Nixon’s grayish pallor, exacerbated by his gray suit, 5 o’clock shadow and perspiration, even lead to a comment from his own mother who inquired if her son was ill. Meanwhile, JFK’s “healthy” tan and charm were apparent for all of television to behold. While this phenomenon does not always hold weight, it does hold a surprising amount of influence.
As a side-note, in no way should looks be the sole reason to elect a public official. This article only serves as how appearance sometimes plays a factor. A responsible citizen should vote based on principles and ideas that stand with theirs, not on looks alone.
Elections of the Past 35 Years
Reviewing recent elections, we can see how presidential races stacked up.
1980 – Ronald Reagan v. Jimmy Carter
While Reagan was entering his senior years, this former actor’s looks still gave him a decided advantage over the former peanut farmer from Georgia. Reagan was an accomplished actor of the 1940s and 1950s and married former Hollywood actress, Anne Frances Robbins, better known as Nancy Reagan. His Hollywood glamour and a hint of a California glow made for a landslide election in 1980.
1984 – Ronald Reagan v. Walter Mondale
Walter Mondale didn’t have a chance against the aging former movie star. Walter Mondale only won his home state of Minnesota.
1988 – George Bush v. Michael Dukakis
A younger Bush, Sr. portrayed himself as strong while Dukakis’ height and eyebrows did not do him any favors.
1992 – Bill Clinton v. George Bush
“Young Slick Willie” versus a now aged Bush was a closer election than many thought but it was tough to overcome the youthful charm of Bill Clinton.
1996 – Bill Clinton v. Bob Dole
Clinton won with ease. Dole’s age, which was even parodied on SNL, neither added to his image or appeal. Clinton’s appearance was helped by his styled full head of hair (remember ‘Hairgate’ with stylist, Cristophe Schatterman?) versus Dole’s receding hairline and senior status.
2000 – George W. Bush v. Al Gore
Too close to call, in terms of appearances. This controversial election’s results are still debated to this day. A young Gore wasn’t bad looking, but his infamous monotone demeanor led to the overall impression that Gore was boring. While Bush won the electoral vote (with some debate), Gore won the popular vote.
2004 – George W. Bush v. John Kerry
George W. Bush, politics aside, wins against Kerry whose facial balance is not quite up to Bush’s.
2008 – Barack Obama v. John McCain
Obama easily wins as his looks and charms won against the aging McCain. McCain has fought many battles, including one against melanoma. The surgery, which removed the skin along the temple and parotid gland, left McCain with a visible masseter muscle on his left, causing facial imbalance. Obama may have his adversaries, but as far as looks go, even his rivals compliment him.
2012 – Barack Obama v. Mitt Romney
One of the better looking candidate profiles, you had Mitt Romney, with his “game show host” looks, against the venerable charming Obama. Romney was the Republican’s best answer, as his looks scored a 99th percentile based on Matthew Atkinson and Seth Hill. Interestingly, this same study could not rate Obama as he was already too well known. However, youth and looks won out here as Obama easily won reelection versus looks alone.
And now, Hillary Clinton v. Donald Trump. This is a difficult race to compare as Hillary and Donald both have their charms and quirks in the looks department.
Young Hillary was perhaps a bit underrated for her appearance during her First Wife days. Her late 1960’s appearance at Wellesley made it clear how she won Bill’s heart. She’s had to deal with tough media scrutiny over the last few decades over her appearance (bathing suit body, cankles, etc.), obviously from her stresses from serving in public office, public scrutiny and time itself, but she has always presented very well and continues to have a polished appearance. Her challenges this election season would be to appear as fresh and vibrant as ever and exude power over her opponent.
Known as a flamboyant, rich playboy, Donald Trump, as a young man, was perhaps the picture of brash New York rich finance and power. This image has driven many young men to emulate him and his name to be synonymous for wealth and success (Trump ties? Yes. Trump steak? Not so much.).
Trump’s looks are also not resistant to age and as he has aged, his hair has become more of an issue as has his infamous skin coloration (some stating, “orange-ness”). Trump’s physical stature, standing in at a solid 6′ 3″) helps him exude power during the debates and his challenges will be to channel his younger, debonair appearance. Perhaps maybe find a shade of skin bronzer in the likes of JFK.
So who wins the 2016 election based on looks alone?
Based on appearances, it’s tough to gauge. The controversy here lies in comparing the candidates’ appearances from when they were younger to their looks today. Perhaps, this will be an election that will allow voters to elect a president based on their beliefs and values instead of playing on appearances.