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11 Shortest Presidential Candidates in American History
written by Sam Greenspan

Yesterday, I read that John McCain is 5-foot-6. This struck me as pretty short for a presidential candidate; I remember reading a while back that, in presidential elections, the taller candidate wins about 60 percent of the time, so it seems like going in at 5'6, you're at a disadvantage.

Barack Obama is between 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-2... which we'll call yet another reason that I believe he could take McCain in the post.

I thought it'd be interesting to take a look at the 11 shortest presidential candidates in U.S. history, to see how McCain looks... and how my fellow below-average-height brethren have done at getting themselves voted into the presidency.

  1. 64 inches of War of 1812 fightin' fury.
    James Madison, 5'4. He was elected president twice, beating taller men both times: Charles Pinckney and De Witt Clinton. Pinckney's height is unknown (but overwhelming statistical odds say he was more than 5'4); Clinton was 6'3.

  2. Benjamin Harrison, 5'6. He beat the incumbent, 5'11 Grover Cleveland, to become president in 1888... then, as the incumbent himself, lost to Grover Cleveland in 1892. That's some non-consecutive weirdness.

  3. Martin Van Buren, 5'6. He beat 5'8 William Henry Harrison in an 1836 battle of very short candidates... then lost to Harrison in 1840.

  4. Aaron Burr, 5'6. He lost to 6'2.5 Thomas Jefferson in 1800. Four years later, Burr shot and killed 5'7 Alexander Hamilton in a duel. So I guess that's one point against the short people, and one point for?

  5. George McClellan, 5'6. He lost to the tallest president in U.S. history, 6'4 Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln won the electoral vote 212 to 21.

  6. James Cox, 5'6. He lost to 6'0 Warren G. Harding in 1920. Harding-Cox is arguably the least exciting election battle ever, right? And also a potential headline for Jay Leno.

  7. Al Smith, 5'6. Smith lost to 5'11.5 Herbert Hoover in 1928. What's that you say? You've never heard of Al Smith? Yeah, apparently losing a presidential election is no guarantee for fame.


  8. Ah, the '80s.
    Michael Dukakis, 5'6. In 1988, Dukakis lost to 6'2 George H.W. Bush. Some sources list Dukakis's height as 5'8, but, word is, that's like when the Sixers and Suns used to list Charles Barkley as 6'6 -- two inches of exaggeration for the sake of intimidation.

  9. John McCain, 5'6. If McCain wins, he'll be tied for the second-shortest president in U.S. history (with the aforementioned Benjamin Harrison and Martin Van Buren). And if he loses, he could join "Entourage", and be the tallest cast member.

    If McCain wins for president, he'd also be the oldest person to take office (he'd be almost 72-and-a-half at his inauguration; Ronald Reagan was just under 70 when he took office the first time).

  10. John Adams and John Quincy Adams, 5'7. Both of the Adams guys were 5'7.

    In 1796, John Adams beat 6'2.5 Thomas Jefferson. In 1820, Quincy lost to 6'0 James Monroe... but in 1824, Quincy beat 6'1 Andrew Jackson. Then in 1828, Quincy lost to Andrew Jackson. So I can draw absolutely zero conclusions about the impact of the Adams' height on their presidential races.

  11. William McKinley, 5'7. In both of his wins, 1896 and 1900, he beat 6'0 William Jennings Bryan.

A few more quick presidential height facts for you: Joe Biden is 6'0... Sarah Palin is 5'5... Hillary Clinton is 5'8.5... the average U.S. president is 5'10... and the tallest first lady was the beautiful Eleanor Roosevelt, who was a rim-rocking 5'11.

This list was originally published on Thursday, September 25, 2008 at 12:30:00 PM under the category News & Politics.
It currently has View Comments.

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