When the ‘perfect candidate’ couldn’t get elected

Former U.S. Sen. John Glenn, right, shakes hands with eight-year-old Josh Schick before the start of a celebration for the renaming of Port Columbus International Airport to John Glenn Columbus International Airport Tuesday, June 28, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. Jay LaPrete | AP

John Glenn is 95 years old today. He was, you may have heard, the first American to orbit the earth, willingly climbing atop a bomb to go try something no American had tried before.

He flew 63 combat missions in Korea, and then was a test pilot for the Navy.

He won election to the U.S. Senate in 1974, was a candidate for vice president in 1976, authored the nuclear non-proliferation act of 1978 and then ran for president in 1984 (losing out to Walter Mondale), got caught up in the savings and loan scandal in 1992, became the oldest person in space when he flew in 1998 at age 77, and then retired from the Senate in 1999, $3 million in campaign debt.

He could’ve been picked for VP three other times — 1984, 1988, and 1992– and was passed over all three times.

This morning, CBS This Morning showed a focus group from Frank Luntz, the GOP operative, in which a person declared that he was stunned that the nation had gotten itself into a position this year in which the choice is between two people “so unqualified to lead” the nation.

That’s when I thought of John Glenn’s career and wondered whether the nation really knows what it takes to run the nation if it couldn’t let Glenn within a heartbeat of the presidency.

Glenn is now the oldest living person to have served in the U.S. Senate, and, of course, the oldest living former astronaut.

Former space shuttle astronaut Michael J. Massimino says Glenn embodied what the country wanted to be like.

He had a war record, looks, was a national hero, had experience, and was still married to his high school sweetheart.

By all accounts, he was the perfect candidate, and just what voters say they want. But voters fib. What they say they want isn’t what they’ll vote for.

John and Annie Glenn with son, John David, in 1965. Wikipedia Family members of former U.S. Sen. John Glenn, left to right, son David Glenn, wife Annie Glenn, and daughter Lyn Glenn react to Glenn’s speech during a celebration for the renaming of Port Columbus International Airport to John Glenn Columbus International Airport Tuesday, June 28, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. Jay LaPrete | AP