News flash: Arlen Specter is old | Slag Heap

News flash: Arlen Specter is old

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One nice thing about working at a newspaper: There's still a chance your mail will include something that's actually interesting. Sometimes it's a letter from Cyril Wecht, sometimes an anonymous threat ("We'll see who's laughing on Judgment Day!") and sometimes it's a question like: "Is Duncan Hines a real person? I need to know, and I need proof."

In any case, an anonymous envelope always gets the juices flowing ... (though I typically have one of the interns actually open it. No sense taking chances.) And today I got a missive worth sharing. 

It's addressed to various polling organizations who conduct statewide surveys, though obviously reporters have been cc'ed on it. 

"I do not understand why no one apparently is polilng the issue of Arlen Specter's advanced age," it begins:

He's old. Really, really old. Older than anyone most of us work with. If he were to be reelected, at the end of the term he would be 86 years 11 months old (if he lives that long). He was born Feb. 12, 1930, during the Hoover administration.

When I tell people that, their eyes grow wide followed by comments such as "Wow!", "That's really old", "He's ancient", "That's older than my grandma", etc. 

... I haven't found a single young voter (under 25 or so) yet who thinks someone that old should be reelected. Hoards of such voters padded Obama's Pennsylvania margin; they won't be there for the elderly Specter.

You know, it is sort of weird there's been so little discussion of Specter's age. It was certainly a topic during John McCain's election bid. Back then, when the age question was polled, voters said that McCain's age was a bigger problem than Barack Obama's race. (Of course, such polls are thrown off by the fact that even bigots know you're not supposed to say that race makes a difference; ageism doesn't carry the same kind of social taboo.) 

Some polling has been done on the question of Specter's age, however. See, for example, this ancient Quinnipiac University poll from a year ago, for example. Question 12 asks

At age 79, do you think Arlen Specter is too old to effectively serve another 6-year term as United States Senator, or not? 

Roughly 4 in 10 Pennsylvanians said that, yes, they did think Specter was too old to serve effectively. That's a sizable chunk of the electorate, when you think about it. Specter may be lucky it hasn't been more of an issue. Though I guess you can see why reporters haven't brought it up -- if we start suggesting there's something wrong with old people, you can kiss off half the average newspaper's subscription base. 

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