June 22nd, 2007
04:51 PM ET
9 years ago

You must be 'this tall' to be president?


From left to right: Teddy Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Bloomberg, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and George Washington.


From left to right: Clinton, Edwards,Obama, Bloomberg, Romney,McCain, Giuliani.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – The taller you are, the better chances you have at becoming Leader of the Free World. Or so says New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has suggested size matters.

Earlier this week, the former Wall Street billionaire fueled speculation that he is considering an independent White House bid after he dropped his affiliation with the GOP. On Wednesday, Bloomberg, again, flatly denied he was a candidate, and has joked that his height may figure into that decision.

"How can a 5-foot-7, divorced, billionaire Jew running as an independent from New York possibly have a chance?" Bloomberg asked in May.

If indeed height plays any factor in the 2008 presidential race, Bloomberg’s got plenty of competition. If he ran, given the existing field, Bloomberg would be the shortest male contender, and only one inch taller than his fellow New Yorker, Democratic White House hopeful Hillary Clinton.

Among the remaining top polling GOP and Democratic candidates, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama are the tallest – Romney is at 6-foot-2 inches, and Obama is at least 6-foot-1. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani both measure in at exactly 6-feet each; while Arizona Sen. John McCain is 5-foot-9 inches.

We may never know to what extent – if any – a candidate’s height plays in voters’ minds; but based purely on the numbers – if recent elections are any indication – size does matter: shorter candidates generally win.

Take the last four presidential races: In 2004 and 2000, 5-foot-11 inch President George W. Bush defeated taller, Democratic rivals, 6-foot-4 Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and 6-foot-1 former Vice President Al Gore, respectively. Six-foot-3 inch former Vice President George H.W. Bush lost by a wide margin, and a half-inch to shorter, to  former Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton in 1992. But former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole got the short end of the stick in 1996 when Clinton defeated the 6-foot-1 Republican. Clinton is an inch and half taller.

The further you go back, the less height would seem to matter. Former Presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and George Washington were all 6 feet or taller. President Theodore Roosevelt was 5-foor-8 inches. James Madison (not pictured) is the shortest president in American history at 5-foot-4 inches.

Abraham Lincoln stands the tallest at 6-foot-4, but that could all change if former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson jumps into the 2008 race: at 6-foot-5 inches he stands a full 10 inches taller than the current New York City mayor.

What do you think? Does height matter to you? Was this a helpful or interesting post or just plain ridiculous? Add your comments below.

soundoff (173 Responses)
  1. Brenda Miller New York NY

    Height matters. Because Americans are so brain dead. So by all means let's choose a tall neanderthal to lead us in the 21st century.

    June 22, 2007 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  2. Providence, RI

    No, height does not matter. A physical appearance has nothing to do with good leadership. All we need is a person with a good and honest soul, and a great leadership skill.

    June 22, 2007 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  3. Mary, Beaver, PA

    Tall presidents have always been the rule rather than the exception, and presidents who were average or shorter than average have had to suffer the malice of their opposition for it. In the most famous campaign song of our history "Tippycanoe and Tyler Too," (1840 Election between William Henry Harrison and incumbent 5'6" Martin Van Buren), the lyrics referred disparagingly to "little Van." James Polk, the 5'8" 11th President, was called "Jim Thumb" by his opponents (a reference to P.T. Barnum's sensational midget Tom Thumb). This is not a new phenomenon, just an unfortunate one.

    June 22, 2007 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  4. Michele, Sanford, FL

    Is it just me or are the photos of George W. Bush & Bloomberg (fourth from left on each) identical?

    June 22, 2007 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  5. Travis, Lehi, Utah

    What a silly article. Mary just pointed out "incumbent 5′6″ Martin Van Buren". What, was he running against a 5'5" guy or what when he GOT ELECTED the first time? Or does height only matter sometimes? Remember all that fuss about George W. being short too when he debated Gore?

    June 22, 2007 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  6. Rob

    Did you even read the article, Mary?

    "based purely on the numbers...size does matter: shorter candidates generally win."

    Height (and physical appearance) are naturally associated with prominence and success in human beings, so yes, height does matter, and whether or not you like it, it's simple human nature.

    June 22, 2007 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  7. Tim O'Keefe, Warwick, RI

    Another interesting observation:

    While I didn't exhaustively research this or anything, I found it interesting that we haven't had a bald or obese president since television became mainstream.

    In fact, all of the presidents since television was popularized have been pretty handsome with a nice full head of hair... or they were previously an actor! I mean, have you ever seen William Taft? That guy would never be elected in this day and age.

    June 22, 2007 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  8. adam russell, san jose, calif

    Ive noticed that most bosses in general are tall. I think people are more apt to listen to someone that suggests "father-figure". (not sure if that goes for the fairer sex)

    June 22, 2007 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Bush is 5'8 or 5'9 at the most, not 5'10.

    But I'm with Brenda. Who cares? Bloomberg is just playing games. People would not vote for him because he is 5'7...but because they just don't like him.

    June 22, 2007 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  10. Amanda, Francestown NH

    Kucinich is shorter than all of the other candidates!

    June 22, 2007 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  11. Aubrey O. Reno, NV

    This has been shown to be true when employers are hiring in the general job market – taller people are often chosen over those considered 'short' and on AVERAGE make more money. Of course, height takes a subconscious role when selecting for the job of President of the United States. And yes, the article was slightly ridiculous.

    June 22, 2007 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  12. Mark, Atlanta, GA

    It does not matter if it is a dwarf. As long as he has a brain and is not just stubborn and surrounds himself with yes folks we will be way ahead.

    June 22, 2007 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  13. Belinda, Tacoma, WA

    I would like to think policy, not height, decides who people vote for. Maybe as a study, at a debate, everyone stands on boxes of varying heights causing everyone to look the same height. It might not be scientific but it would be interesting to see if opinions changed due to no perceived height differences.

    June 22, 2007 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  14. Kim, St. Louis MO

    Obviously height and appearance should not "matter." Honesty, integrity, and leadership are more important.

    Good news America, Al Gore is 6'1" and has all of the above, so we can have it all in '08!

    June 22, 2007 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  15. Aubrey O. Reno, NV

    Additionally, Americans have shown a slight underlying preference for a variety of characteristics – a light Southern accent for example. I'm not saying you specifically agree with the height or accent theory but history has shown this.

    June 22, 2007 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  16. Eileen Washington DC

    Michelle,

    It's definitely not you, the photos are exactly the same, and I'm pretty sure they're of Bloomberg. Sloppy, CNN, albeit not as sloppy as that horrid Death Penalty interactive.

    Incidently, if I remember correctly G W Bush claimed he was 6'2 when he first ran against Gore, which was absurd because that would have made him an inch taller than Gore. He shrank for 2004, but I still think he claimed he was 6 feet. He also insisted, despite being taller than Gore on paper, that his podium at the debates be raised so that they'd be the same height, so he clearly thought it mattered.

    June 22, 2007 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  17. Tracie, Flower Mound Texas

    Height matters. It should not but that is the way it is....

    June 22, 2007 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  18. Bob, Lincolnton, GA

    Who's Lincolnton?

    June 22, 2007 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  19. mr hanky

    so how tall was Ross Perot, 4'3"?

    June 22, 2007 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  20. hector, detroit, mi

    JFK is not in your graphic, but he is in the caption.

    June 22, 2007 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  21. Elizabeth, Marietta GA

    It was ridiculous because I can't even tell how tall they are on TV, so that couldn't possibly weigh in on my decision. I always thought W was much shorter!

    June 22, 2007 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  22. Karen, Seattle, WA

    Height has absolutely nothing to do with one's ability to be President. It is my sincere hope that the next President will be honest, truly educated, willing to compromise, not pander to either the extreme right or left and be willing to admit to his or her mistakes. If they were also a good public speaker it certainly would present a much better image of our nation.

    June 22, 2007 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  23. Tom, Los Angeles, California.

    No, you fools! It's not height, it's width! Width, I tell you! Three words: "William Howard Taft." I rest my case.

    June 22, 2007 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  24. Tom Dybowski Toronto Canada

    how about the size of ones heart?
    in that category I am sure Dr Ron Paul beats them all!

    June 22, 2007 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  25. Robert Shaw

    The only thing any person's height reveals about them is how tall they are.

    June 22, 2007 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
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