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Facial hair and the American presidency

A bearded Gore at a February 3 fund-raiser in Tennessee.
A bearded Gore at a February 3 fund-raiser in Tennessee.  

From Bruce Morton
CNN Washington Bureau

(CNN) -- Former Vice President Al Gore is back in the public eye, making speeches and still sporting his salt-and-pepper beard. But Citizen Gore, take note: You may want to lose that facial hair if you want to win the Oval Office.

Only five presidents in U.S. history have had beards when they moved to the White House -- none in the past century. Benjamin Harrison, who took office in 1889, was the most recent.

Oh sure, some bearded presidents have achieved renown. Look at Abraham Lincoln, who followed the advice of an 11-year-old fan and grew whiskers in time for his 1860 bid. Perhaps she was the first media consultant?

CNN's Bruce Morton takes a look a the history of beards in American politics, including the one Al Gore is currently sporting (February 13)

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But what wowed the crowds of 1860 apparently didn't do much for voters of 1944 and 1948, when Thomas Dewey twice tried and failed to win the presidency. Citizen Dewey, history notes, wore a mustache. He also was the last to have any facial hair other than a 5 o'clock shadow.




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