Concerns about age and health are nothing new in presidential campaigns. In 1956, Adlai Stevenson crudely exploited President Eisenhower’s heart attack. He tried to frighten voters with the prospect that Vice President Nixon would soon succeed Ike. “And distasteful as this matter is, I must say bluntly that every piece of scientific evidence we have, every lesson of history and experience, indicates that a Republican victory tomorrow would mean that Richard M. Nixon would probably be President of this country within the next four years.” Lest anybody miss the point, he added: “I recoil at the prospect of Mr. Nixon as custodian of this nation’s future, as guardian of the hydrogen bomb…”
Of course, Richard Nixon did become president twelve years later, and undertook landmark arms talks with the Soviet Union. President Eisenhower lived to watch his inauguration on television. Stevenson did not. He had died in 1965 – of a heart attack.