The Real Problem With Hillary's Age

It's not her, it's her potential consultants and advisers.
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She's not too old to be president, but can she attract a new generation of political operatives? (Reuters)

Republican spinning that Hillary Clinton is too old to be president is the sort of bad messaging strategy you see when people are not coordinating with a campaign or a candidate, mainly because neither exists on the GOP side at this moment. What message do comments on age reinforce about the Republicans or their future nominee, except to send a tone-deaf signal to older women that the party thinks they are irrelevant?

Let's not forget that The Golden Girls, mentioned by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell in his dig against Clinton, was a show about elderly female retirees in Florida, which is to say, a critical block of civic-minded voters in the tight-as-a-tick swing state. And if there's one thing such older women do not cotton to, it's any suggestion that they be put out to pasture instead of wooed by political figures. Be nice to grandmothers!

That said, Clinton's age may still be a relevant concern. But it's not because she's an older woman -- it's because she is an older politician. Democrats would need to worry about this even in the unlikely event she were to run and face someone her own age in 2016. As an older politician, Clinton has decades' worth of ties in the political consulting establishment. But she lacks a cadre of loyalists with fresh outside-the-Beltway experience and ideas who are eager to innovate the latest campaign techniques.

A number of her 2008 aides have fallen out of her orbit. This is probably good news for her, should she run, because the old-school way she campaigned in 2007 and 2008 was already a problem for her then. Given that she's the prohibitive favorite for the nomination in 2016, should she run, it could be a problem for the whole Democratic Party if she doesn't pursue a very different course on her second go.

In short, instead of potentially alienating older women, the GOP ought to be cheering that one of them may be running -- and the chance they may have to hire a dynamic team of innovators and rising star state strategists to compete against her team during election 2016.

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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