Although three of the 24 Republican U.S. senators facing the voters next year will be 80 and above and another senator is recovering from a stroke, veteran GOP consultant Whit Ayres told Newsmax Tuesday morning this will not be an issue so long as "the candidate is vigorous."
Ayres, author of the much-discussed book "2016 and Beyond,"
spoke at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor in Washington. His response came to Newsmax’s question, which noted that up for election next year will be GOP Sens. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
All three senators are running again at the respective ages of 82, 80, and 83.
"I did [Oklahoma GOP Sen.] Jim Inhofe’s campaign for re-election last year and he was 80 years old," recalled Ayres, who has attracted considerable attention lately as one of the top consultants to Florida Sen. and potential Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, "[Our TV commercial] showed him taking his [airplane] out of a hanger, looking right in the camera, grinning and saying ‘don’t even think about messing with me!’"
Ayres then described how his commercial showed the veteran senator taking off in the plane and flying "loops and twirls."
"Chronological age is a lot less important than health, vigor, and attitude," he said, recalling how he managed the re-election campaign of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, R.-S.C., in 1996 and he was re-elected at age 94.
Thurmond’s "last hurrah" was, according to Ayres, "one of the best campaigns I had ever worked on. The senator began the campaign with about 53% or 54% support and that was about what he won by. The electorate knew him well."
Ayres did not specifically address the situation of freshman Sen. Mark Kirk (R.-Ill.), who won in 2010 and suffered a serious stroke the following year. Kirk, who will be 56 this year, now puts in full days in the Senate and insists he will run again in ’16.
(On the same day Ayres spoke to reporters, Democratic Rep. and former Obama administration official Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., announced she would run for the Senate next year).
Another question to Ayres regarding the Senate races was about how Republican incumbents such as Kirk and Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson could win seeking re-election next year in states where President Barack Obama comfortably defeated Mitt Romney in ’12.
"You support a transformational Republican nominee [for President] who will make the states far more competitive than they were [in ‘12]," he replied.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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