A question I raise in the comments to this morning's body fat post.
Here's a list of all the candidates through American history. I'd say the answer to my question is 1976. But Jimmy Carter had a big smile that people responded to, and Ford had reached the presidency via Richard Nixon, who was quite unattractive, and people saw Nixon through Ford. That is, I could wriggle out of conceding that the "last time" was as recently as 1976. But what's the point? We get stopped at the next notch, 1972. Nixon was distinctly less pretty than George McGovern. Nixon was also less pretty than Hubert Humphrey in 1968, not that Humphrey was at all cute. 1964 was also a clear case of the uglier guy winning, LBJ being perhaps the ugliest President ever, and Barry Goldwater looking quite good. One more step back and we get to 1960, the strongest case I remember seeing beauty boosting a candidate across the line. And everyone talked about it (and still talks about it).
It's interesting that after that 1960 beauty contest, we got our spate of the uglier candidate winning. Why? The ugliest man ascended to the Presidency after the assassination of the handsome idol, and it was not odd that he was elected shortly thereafter. It took almost 20 years for us to revert to choosing the handsomer man, but ever since — more than 3 decades — we've chosen beauty.
This year, the GOP has made a strong choice in the beauty contest. It's not clear who's handsomer. Of course, it's clear if we average in the VP component, but the VP beauty boost is an iffy proposition. It didn't work — at least not enough — for John McCain or John Kerry. But I'm thinking if only Gerald Ford had picked someone prettier than Bob Dole....