John McCain’s Age: An Issue?

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Yesterday, the DNC released some internal polling it conducted on John McCain. There’s nothing groundbreaking — some people know a lot about McCain, some don’t; some can be swayed by new (presumably negative) information about McCain, some can’t — but there is one interesting observation. When swing voters are asked about McCain, the “most frequently volunteered concerns” are his age (19%), his position on the Iraq War (18%), his support for continuing the policies of the Bush Administration (10%), and his positions on economic issues (8%).

That first number is pretty stunning: nearly twice as many people are worried about McCain’s age — he’ll be 72 in August — than his manifold similarities to a failed president who has an approval rating hovering around 30 percent.

But will the Democrats make an issue of McCain’s age? Not according to party chairman Howard Dean, who said yesterday, “I doubt we will bring it up in the election.” Dean tried to portray the decision as a moral one: “There is somewhat of a higher ethical bar on what we do. We don’t have any Lee Atwaters or Karl Roves on our side.” In reality, Dean is probably unwilling to risk upsetting the AARP vote, which turns out reliably and doesn’t want to hear that an energetic man of its age should be disqualified from holding office. Age discrimination, and all that.

That doesn’t mean age won’t be an issue. There will be independent liberal groups, not to mention liberal blogs, that will be all too happy to suggest McCain is “too old-fashioned” or “out of touch with modern views.” Heck, even the Democratic nominee can play this game — a surrogate can “accidentally” make a comment that inserts age into the national debate, and then apologize the next day after the damage is done.

And of course, every story and blog post that debates whether age should be an issue makes age an issue.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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