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. Dan Kaepp, Coldwater, MI

    Hitler, Mousilini and Tojo were little guys, as was Napolean.

    June 22, 2007 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  2. Rodney Raanan NY,NY

    Giraffes are tall too. I'd rather have a sly fox. I am with Brenda on this.

    June 22, 2007 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  3. XC

    Yes, no chance in hell Bloomberg would be elected. This is a direct effect of women's suffrage. Women's #1 criteria in judging the quality of a man is height.

    Therfore, many women (but not all) will vote for most alpha looking male, b/c somehow that is "safe".

    June 22, 2007 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  4. John - San Diego, California

    Height differences are much more noticeable in pictures and on TV screens. Because a persons focus is on the candidates face, height differences become more noticeable. But as far as I can see even though Bloomberg is 5'7", it didn't prevent him from becoming a billionaire and extremely successful in his own right. American society puts way more emphasis on physical appearance than do other countries. For example the leader of Iran is 5'4" and the leader of North Korea is 5'3." It's quite embarassing that height is really an issue when it comes to selecting a person for president. They are running for the presidency, not the NBA.

    June 22, 2007 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  5. Doug, San Antonio, TX

    Fun article.

    LBJ was 6-foot-3, but for awhile a giant on the national stage.

    June 22, 2007 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  6. Corey, Bellingham, WA

    First of all, Al Gore lost in 2000 not 2002, and according to wikipedia, Abraham Lincolnton was never president.

    June 22, 2007 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  7. Rob, Asheville NC

    Height does matter. Im 6'6" and taller than any boss I've had in my career. I honestly think I was passed for promotion many times because my Tom Cruise wannabe (err...I mean my boss) felt threatened by my height.

    As far as running for President is concerned, the "height" of your bank account is what counts. But if you're bald/ing, short and wealthy, you ain't got a chance.

    June 22, 2007 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  8. Eileen Hamilton, Scarborough, Maine

    Just Plain Ridiculous.

    June 22, 2007 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  9. Tara, Chicago, IL

    I want to be President and I'm 5'2"!!

    June 22, 2007 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  10. Jim, Atlanta, GA

    Height matters? Absolutely, from my experience in the corporate world. Whether male or female, our "bosses" are all tall, on average.

    I work for a large corporation and it seems rare to find a male manager under 6 feet tall or a female under 5' 7" approx. Both these heights are above the national average, I believe.

    Of course, all this is circumstantial based on my observations, but I haven't seen a lot of "Napoleons" over the years.

    June 22, 2007 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  11. Robert Harper, Toronto, Canada

    This is wonderful because it is delightful and meaningless. How about a survey on eye colour or hair colour or size of feet, etc., all grist for the proverbial mill.

    I collect trivia and I will save this.

    June 22, 2007 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  12. Brian Cordell, Cincinnati, OH

    In addition to being really tall, Abraham Lincolnton was really overweight, too.

    June 22, 2007 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  13. Lee, N. Andover, MA

    Sorry...just plain ridiculous.

    June 22, 2007 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  14. William, Arlington, TX

    Someone has already commented on the "2002 election" mistake. Someone has also commented on the "President Lincolnton" mistake. Here is another mistake for you: George H. W. Bush was president when he lost to Clinton. It is incorrect to refer to previous U.S. president as "Former Vice President." Who wrote this article? Did they read it before they posted it?

    June 22, 2007 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  15. Alyne, Las Cruces NM

    Does size really correlate to leadership capability or are we a society that is still so simplistic as to judge others by their color, their shape ... their size. What a person can accomplish for our country is not a function of height. I am one 4'6" American who has always done her best every day to enhance the world for the people around her. I concourage everyone to make their choice for President based on capability, not something so irrelevent as height.

    June 22, 2007 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  16. Brian, Ny Ny

    Short is sweet – vive Napoleon!

    June 22, 2007 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  17. Tom, Boston, MA

    Look closely at the top picture. Teddy Roosevelt is in black and white, and easily overlooked. The captions are correct - the pics of Bush and Bloomberg are not identical, and I see JFK!

    June 22, 2007 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  18. Dave Hines Phoenix, AZ

    Until I see a president who's 6'11", as I am, I'm not going to care. I'd vote for Tom McMillen.

    June 22, 2007 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  19. Paul Z., Wadsworth, Ohio

    Short People For Kucinich!!!!!!!!!!
    Dennis – Short in stature but long on intelligence;
    King George W the Inept – Tall in stature but can't spell intelligence.

    June 22, 2007 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  20. Brandon from Indiana

    Come down with all us Brenda from New York, what America doesn't need is another pretentious citizen.

    June 22, 2007 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  21. Jon, Salt Lake City Utah

    To become President of the United States in this modern age, one must possess the following characteristics: male, white, Christian, full head of hair (with no facial hair), slim (exception – Bill Clinton), and at least a multimillionaire. Being good looking helps too (remember JFK vs. Nixon?) Based on those criteria, we should see Mitt Romney vs. John Edwards in the general election.

    June 22, 2007 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  22. Neil, Houston, TX

    This has to be one of the most useless
    comparisons in history... and evidence
    that much of the mass media is only
    interested in distracting the public,
    not informing them.

    June 22, 2007 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  23. Jay Wohlken, Nashville, TN

    Who is Abraham "Lincolnton"?

    June 22, 2007 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  24. Neighbor

    There are two opposites to short. (Sorry, Hilary.)

    June 22, 2007 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  25. Steve, Los Angeles, CA

    Short people are generally viewed as "untrustworthy". It is more to do with confidence. Height inspires confidence, and no Americans want their leader to look shorter than other world leaders on a TV screen.

    As many have stated, height SHOULD NOT matter, but it does. Would George Bush be a better president if he were 6'6"? No, he would be better president if he were more intelligent and honest.

    Let's rate presidents and candidates on intelligence, integrity and leadership skills.

    June 22, 2007 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
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