Age Becomes Big Issue in Senate Race

Reported by: Alyssa Meisner
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Updated: 3/25/2014 8:16 pm
As the race heats up for the seat of Mississippi's U.S. Senator, age has been called into question. Thad Cochran has been called ‘too old’ and ‘out of touch’, while others say Chris McDaniel does not have enough experience for the Senate. In the Mississippi Republican Primary for U.S. Senate, Cochran and McDaniel are more than 30 years apart. McDaniel has been trying to capitalize on Cochran's graying hair by emphasizing how long he's been in office. McDaniel says, "We need change in Washington D.C. The people of the state feel it in their bones. They know something isn't right. They know we need the change, but the only way to make that change happen is to see a new blood in Washington."

The other challenge older politicians face is public worry that they might not make it through their term. Dr. James Pat Smith, a history professor at U.S.M., says, "The bigger risk of an aging politician is, ‘O.K., I'm closer to death and you might die in office.’ We mentioned Senator Robert Byrd, West Virigina, who served in the U.S. Senate for over 50 years, but he died in office at age 92. He was re-elected at age 90 and died in office at age 92." Older politicians tend to have more experience and the benefit of being the incumbent. Senator Cochran has chaired the Agriculture and Appropriations Committees because he is a senior member of the Senate. If elected, McDaniel would be a junior senator with much less influence on policies affecting Mississippi.

Smith also says, "You only have four congressmen, but your U.S. senator is of equal weight to a U.S. senator from California, and if you’ve got the seniority on the people from California, you have leverage on federal appropriations that they won't have." So while age can both help and hinder a candidate, Mississippi will vote June 3rd as to whether they want a veteran or a fresh face to represent them in the U.S. Senate.

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