Americans tend to like their leading men tall. Rand Paul, who formally announced the start of his presidential campaign on Tuesday, may have a stature problem on that front. Should he eventually win the Republican nod in 2016, the U.S. senator from Kentucky would be the shortest major party nominee since 1988, when Democrat Michael Dukakis also measured in at 5-feet-8-inches tall.
The average American male is 69.3 inches tall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. That's only a little more than an inch taller than Paul, who is 68-inches tall.
Still, most presidential nominees in recent history have been substantially taller and the trend line for U.S. presidents has also been on the rise, reflecting the nation's broader biological growth spurt. Sometimes called the "presidential height index," there's some evidence that candidates who are substantially taller than their opponents win more often.
A 2011 paper published by Texas Tech University researchers found that evolutionary psychology plays a role. Preference for physically formidable leaders, or "caveman politics," may have evolved to ensure survival in ancient human history, the study found, also citing the fact that candidates clearly taller than their opponents won 58 percent of U.S. presidential elections between 1789 and 2008. In 2012, a 73-inch Barack Obama overcame this trend and defeated a 74-inch Mitt Romney, although clearly lots of other factors were in play than their nearly even heights.
Joining Paul on a Republican debate stage later this year will be Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who is expected to announce his own presidential bid on April 13. He's just one inch taller than the junior senator from Kentucky.
One other piece of good news for Paul, who often wears cowboy boots that add an inch or two while campaigning in rural states like Iowa, is that the most likely Democratic nominee—at least at this point—is even shorter. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is just 5-feet-7-inches tall, according to Politico. Of course, high heels can add more height than cowboy boots.