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The Long and Short of It: Does Size Matter in a President?

Do looks matter in a president? Perhaps, though, you can ask the infamous JFK/Nixon debate match up on that one — but how about sheer size? With Obama's workout regiment closely watched earlier this campaign, in the face-off between 6'1.5", 180 lbs. Obama, and 5'7", 165 lbs. McCain, will the top dog be the biggest in the pack?

The New York Times took the weights and measurements of the men running for president back to the turn of the century to see if there's any truth to the rumor that tall men rule.

The results? Not always. Perhaps presidential shorter/heavier loser Ford is a little resentful that he lost his match up on the scale with Jimmy Carter, while Nixon was similarly shorter and heavier than both McGovern and Humphrey and won both match-ups.

To see some of the other stand out numbers,


  • Though taller doesn't always win, the taller man has won 17 times to the shorter victors' eight in the elections since 1896.
  • Does a battle of the bulge have anything to do with winning? Ask William Taft, I suppose. At 332 lbs. he still beat his opponent — as did 18 other "heaviers." The lighter man only won eight times.
  • What's the real long and short of it? The tallest president was Abraham Lincoln at 6'4"; the shortest was James Madison at 5'4".

    The Times graphic is worth a look, all the heights and weights are right there. I mean, if that's what it takes to be president . . . uh, maybe I'll pass? None of your beeswax, voters!


Join The Conversation
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 8 years
yy, your av is pretty!
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 8 years
"I didn't realize that McCain was that short, he looks much taller than 5'7" on T.V.!" I believe that is called the Tom Cruise Effect! :wink:
yesteryear yesteryear 8 years
well it clearly ain't a beauty contest... nixon... phew... ugh.
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
yeah he's only 6'1" that's why Michelle Obama always wears flats when she is on stage with him because she is 6 ft herself. I didn't realize that McCain was that short, he looks much taller than 5'7" on T.V.!
em1282 em1282 8 years
Hahaha, this could go on for a long time, Jude. ;)
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
The only "size" that matters is the size of the bailout package. ;)
em1282 em1282 8 years
:rotfl: Hey it's more fun on the 'dark side'. :howyoudoin: I'm also emoticon happy today, so I apologize for the overload.
MartiniLush MartiniLush 8 years
I see we have managed to corrupt Jude as well, em! :-)
em1282 em1282 8 years
No, Martini, you and I apparently need to get our filthy minds out of the gutter. :rotfl: I'm not surprised Obama's 6'1". I did see him on Conan when he was taping his show here, and Conan still towered over Obama. Then again I'm so short--at barely 5'1"--that pretty much everyone else seems toweringly tall to me. Well, except, uh, little kids, and little people...
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
Dammit... :howyoudoin:
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
MartiniLush MartiniLush 8 years
MartiniLush MartiniLush 8 years
Hmmmm, am I the only one around here picturing something entirely different based on that headline???
RockOnRepublic RockOnRepublic 8 years
John McCain is 5'7"? I never would have guessed that. But I haven't really put much thought into candidate's height before.
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
Gotcha, CG.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
Jude... Napoleon was actually 1.7 m in length which is 5'7" in todays world. (according to the official autopsy reports) The confusion came because english and french inches are different.
RockOnRepublic RockOnRepublic 8 years
In the TV age, looks have come into play with getting some politician's elected. So sad really. Like you mentioned in the post. The majority listening on the radio thought Nixon won that debate.
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 8 years
lol, TS, welcome to my world. It is sad knowing that you are taller than like 99% of all the hollywood hunks. Ruins the illusion.
True-Song True-Song 8 years
Oh, I saw that chart yesterday, so funny! I love Roosevelt's little glasses in the picture. I was really surprised to find out McCain's only 5' 7". It doesn't matter at all, it's just weird that he's shorter than I am.
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
It didn't matter to Napoleon's armies.
mswender mswender 8 years
I saw McCain at Yankee Stadium this summer and he is short! He made Giuliani look like a giant!
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 8 years
And if height, or lack there of, plays in part in someone's vote, I pray they forget to vote!
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
I never really notice the candidates "size" ALthough i thought Kerry looked like lurch.
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 8 years
Is Obama only 6'1"? I thought he looked taller than that.
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