In two hotly contested primaries, age is creeping into the narrative and raising the specter of “ageism” as voters prepare to go to the polls.
In Texas, the oldest member of Congress – Rep. Ralph Hall (R) – faces a primary challenger 43 years his junior in a runoff next Tuesday, and the issue is starting to bite. Former US attorney John Ratcliffe said Thursday that he thinks age is fair game in the campaign to unseat Congressman Hall, who is in his early 90s.
In Mississippi, six-term Sen. Thad Cochran (R) is in his mid-70s – a spring chicken, by the Senate’s historical standards – but he’s still fighting his primary opponent’s story line that it’s time for new (read: younger) blood. Senator Cochran is also facing allegations he’s avoiding public appearances back home.
What’s more, Cochran’s opponent, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, is embroiled in a controversy over the actions of a supporter who allegedly photographed Cochran’s bedridden wife in her nursing home and posted a video online (since removed). The supporter has been arrested and faces felony charges. Senator McDaniel says he and his campaign had nothing to do with the actions of the supporter, a blogger named Clayton Kelly. The Cochran campaign is raising questions about the McDaniel camp’s denials.
Though the photos were of Cochran’s wife, the intent of the video was “clearly to make Cochran look like an old man,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.