With social media scrutiny, could past presidents get elected today?


It's been a long time since America had a corpulent commander in chief. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, frequently mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2016, could be the nation's first since William H. Taft.

Christie may not fit the mold of what a modern president looks like, but could the presidents of years past get elected in today's world of 24-hour news channels, social media and paparazzi? Let's take a completely unscientific look.

Whether William Taft was a "great president" is open to debate, but one thing is for sure — he'd have a hard time getting elected were he running today. Not so much for his appearance, but for reports of him nodding off during meetings. Just imagine the number of retweets a photo of a presidential candidate snoozing during a fundraiser would get. The Internet might break.

Speaking of snoozing. Let's talk Jimmy Carter. The 39th president was not known for his passion. He was, however, rumored to be a bit of a micro-manager, and some people said that during his first six months in office, he reviewed the list of staffers who wished to use the White House tennis courts — although Carter denied it. Still, it sounds like he had such a love of detail that his staff would have to keep him away from Facebook friend requests. 

Then there's John F. Kennedy. He was handsome, charismatic, intelligent and had a love for the ladies. Would candidate Kennedy be able to keep his activities on the QT in a world connected by cell phones and Wi-Fi? Maybe not. During the days of Camelot, the press was known to look the other way when it came to JFK's less admirable traits. These days? Not so much. For instance, a leaked YouTube clip of a Hollywood bombshell singing "Happy Birthday" in a sultry voice would raise many an eyebrow.

Many historians believe Abraham Lincoln to be America's finest president. He was fearless, tenacious, brave and, of course, honest. But — let's face it — he wasn't exactly a matinee idol. Would a man who could charitably be described as "homely" be elected in an era of 1080p HD and snarky bloggers critiquing his chin and choice in top hats 24/7? We like to think so, but it's worth wondering.

What of the Great Communicator? Ronald Reagan is held up by many Republicans as the type of politician they aspire to be like. But many, including Bob Dole, have wondered if Reagan could get elected in today's partisan political scene. Some believe Reagan's relative middle-of-the-road stance on a lot of issues would make it difficult to win the Republican primaries. Reagan was also a bit of a joker. In 1984, while preparing to address the nation, he joked that he'd just signed legislation that "outlawed Russia" and that the U.S. would commence bombing in five minutes. The quip wasn't broadcast live, but was later leaked. If someone made the same joke today, it's easy to imagine it going viral in about 0.2 seconds.

Any speculative piece on time traveling presidents wouldn't be complete without a look at Richard Nixon. One of America's most controversial presidents, Nixon was known for, among other things, keeping an enemies list. Would Nixon be able to resist hacking into his enemies' email accounts?  Would he go off on his enemies via an anonymous account on Twitter? His handlers would surely have their hands full.

What do you think? Could great presidents like Franklin Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson or George Washington be elected in today's world? What about Honest Abe, Reagan and Nixon? Please leave a comment below.