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. O. Amaro

    As made evident by our current president, intelligence is not a requirement for the office. Neither should height.

    June 22, 2007 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  2. Withheld, New York, NY

    Someone I know was reassigned from Bloomberg's campaign because he was too tall next to the mayor. He was 6'5" and made him look too short.

    June 22, 2007 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  3. Andrew, Washington DC, USA

    Ridiculous. Height doesn't matter – people are people.

    It's silly that height and gender are even considerations nowadays.

    June 22, 2007 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  4. Chris, Portland, OR

    Maybe short people are just bad people. Is there truth to the "Napolean Complex"? Or is it just bigotry?

    June 22, 2007 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  5. Jeff, Columbus, Ohio

    Do you have any idea how discriminatory and insulting you are being to short people? Any at all? Like I said before, replace "tall" with "white" and "short" with "black", and tell me what you read.
    Did any of you ever stop to consider that the reason you think being tall matters is because that's what you were taught by your parents, and them by your grandparents? How is this preconceived notion of superiority based on height at all valid? Have you ever met a short statured adult whose level of confidence caused you to take a step back, or better yet, forward, perhaps to follow them as you seem to think everyone wants to follow you? Have you ever considered how ridiculous it is to judge people solely by their physical attributes, as if life is just a beauty pageant? How would you like it if you went somewhere and were discriminated against for being too tall?
    Heightism is no different than racism and sexism. Each of these three serious maladies in this country are based on incorrect, preconceived notions handed down from generation to generation, feeding a superiority complex built up to make people feel good about themselves at other peoples' expense. And yet you think nothing of it, because you're conditioned through years of self-affirmation of your elitist attitude. Wake up and realize what you're saying.

    June 22, 2007 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  6. Bruce, Winnipeg, MB, Canada

    Not only height matters but also the shape of the face and the letter the name begins with. Better to be tall, have an oval face and have your surname start with a letter that comes earlier in the alphabet. Short people with round faces whose name starts with S and later in the alphabet do not have a chance to get elected. It's sad but true that people vote for candidates for reasons other than who is the best candidate. These factors make a good impression, even if it is misleading. Just look at Geo. W.

    June 22, 2007 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  7. Trevor W., Viroqua, WI

    Although i am of short stature myself, i do not believe that height plays a considerable role in the presidency. Its just an excuse used by people to explain why they were beat out by their taller competitor(s).

    June 22, 2007 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  8. P Shah, NY

    It might be the consideration with men, but I don't think its the same consideration with women- for e.g- all powerful women in the US are not too tall (Fortune 50 most powerful women)..so Hilary is safe here.

    June 22, 2007 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  9. L. Larson Bismarck, ND

    I hope height does not become a factor in the upcoming election. I worry though; in the last two elections Americans voted for a man they could feel comfortable having a beer with. A man of less intelligence then most of them, look at what happened! We elected the “Village Idiot.”

    June 22, 2007 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  10. Steven R

    Height does not matter. It has nothing to do with one's potential fitness as a president. Many people only THINK it matters. We are genetically predisposed to consider height a value because our caveman ancestors required physical characteristics, such as height, far more than we do today. Nowdays, who cares? Unless one is a professional basketball player, or some other athlete requiring height, when does one's height give anyone a true (rather than perceived) advantage? It has nothing to do with actual skills required involved for nearly all managerial-type professions.

    Oh, and isn't it ironic that the wealthiest among all the candidates (Bloomberg) is also the shortest?

    June 22, 2007 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  11. Jake Y., Rocky River, Ohio

    Ohio Governor Ted Strickland defeated Ken Blackwell in the 06 election. Blackwell was at least 4 inches taller and much bigger than Strickland. Strickland won by 23% of the vote. The main issue was the GOP corruption and I am sure height had no impact on the election. Furthermore, fmr. Senator Mike Dewine is a meager 5" 5' at the most and won twice in Ohio. Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell do not appear that tall either. And theyre head of their respective parties in the Senate!

    June 22, 2007 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  12. Joe Rogers, Chino Valley, AZ

    A normal height has the greatest chance of seceeding that some one at the extrems. James Madison as the shortest president was known as "Little Jimmy". In the world of management the person slightly taller then normal has the big edge. Historicaly Abe Lincoln was way outside the normal height of his day. He either slept in specially made beds or slept caty-cornered across the bed. Abe's times were unusual so a very tall president became president (mainly because the democratic vote was split by more the one cantidate (north-vs-south). It all comes down to who appears to be the most successive in how they are portrayed. Medium height will win!

    June 22, 2007 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  13. Kolby Hanson, Stanford, CA

    Very few people would claim that height plays in consciously to a determination of worth as a candidate.
    However, it is undeniable that height does subconsciously color the public's view of a person, just as race, gender, and religion do. Numerous studies over the last few years can attest to this fact. This was shown in politics when Dukakis had great troubles in 1988 overcoming the image as a weakling. His short stature certainly did not help him.
    This most likely would not be an issue, however, if the media did not address it so extensively. Most do not know of Tom Cruise's height, and he is as spotlighted as any presidential hopeful. The very fact that this type of story appears damages the objectivity of the American public.

    June 22, 2007 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    I think that size doesn't matter because it is showing that then James Madison would have had a very bad chance. Sure looks tie up everything but, people want what you are going to do for the country. As John F. Kennedy said,
    "Find what you can do for your country, not find you can get for your country.

    June 22, 2007 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  15. Jen, Salisbury, MD

    Perhaps height matters in the back of our minds, but the truth is that not many Americans get to see the presidential hopefuls in the flesh. Height only truly has an impact when one is right there to feel the strong presence of a man or a woman who is over six feet tall.
    Furthermore, let's hope that the people that are voting based on height/physical appearance will opt to stay at home on election day and read perezhilton.com all day.

    June 22, 2007 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  16. Jeff, Pa Furnace, Pennsylvania

    I'm 5'10, my best friend is 5'5, and my brother is 6'2. We're all men, we're all political moderates, and we'd all be a disaster as president. 'Nuff said.

    June 22, 2007 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    How about we ask this question, does skin color matter in running for presidency?

    June 22, 2007 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  18. douglasawh

    Somewhat interesting, but certainly bordering on stupid.

    June 22, 2007 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  19. Howard, Joshua Tree

    Yes height does matter, playing a factor just as great as looks, personality, and character.

    June 22, 2007 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  20. Ariel Gonzalez


    June 22, 2007 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  21. Andrew, Arlington, VA

    Ridiculous. James Madison was 5'4", not to mention 100 lbs.

    June 22, 2007 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  22. J. Thomas, Preston, CT

    Height doesn't matter, but looks certainly do. I think that Mitt Romney will go far, not based on his views, but because he looks the most presidential of all the candidates.

    June 22, 2007 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  23. Larry, LA, CA

    The size of the heart matters, however it seems like when comes to stupidity there are no limits. I'm thinking of the current president.

    June 22, 2007 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  24. John Schow-Chicago, Il 60611

    Why should height be a factor? Afterall, we currently have a President that was born without a brain. Compared to having a moron in office, a short President would be a dramatic step in the right direction regardless of whom it may turn out to be. Maybe we should make sure that it is a requirement that any candidate from this point on is able to read, write, and enunciate most words in the English language.

    June 22, 2007 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  25. Steve, Ottawa, Ontario

    Actually, and oddly enough, height does matter in a Presidential race. We live in a media driven society that makes snap judgments on personal appearances. The Kennedy Nixon debate proved that. A candidate with a good stature will have an edge and more likely impress both in public and on TV.
    Americans want there leaders to be tall and fit. I would guess that 5'11" would be the minimum that could command respect and anything above 6'3" should probably just stick to basketball.

    June 22, 2007 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
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