Reagan's Age

As the 1984 election approached, many voters voiced their concerned with Reagan's age. At 73, he was already the oldest President in history.


Narrator: The meeting helped defuse one of Mondale's campaign issues. But a few days later Reagan's age - 73 - became an issue. In his first television debate he seemed confused.

Reagan (archival): We have. Our military. The morale is high. The, I think, the people should understand that two-thirds of the defense budget pays for pay and salary. Or pay and pension.

Narrator: Nancy blamed Reagan's staff and wanted to fire Richard Darman who she felt had swamped Reagan with too many facts.

Henry TrewhittBaltimore Sun (archival): You already are the oldest President in history. And some of your staff say you were tired after your most recent encounter with Mr. Mondale.

I recall yet that President Kennedy had to go for days on end with very little sleep during the Cuban missile crisis. Is there any doubt in your mind that you would be able to function in such circumstances?

Reagan (archival): Not at all, Mr. Trewhitt. And I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience.

Narrator: The age issue would not go away. But Reagan routed Walter Mondale with 59% of the vote. "We can read," Tip O'Neill would later tell him. "In my 50 years in public life, I've never seen a man more popular than you with the American people."


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  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH

  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH