Until 1960, everyone who was elected president or was taken seriously as a candidate was a white, Protestant man whose family had been long settled in America, with the sole exception of Al Smith. Then from 1964 to 2008, the same.
It is remarkable how different the lineup is in 2015. Taking all 17 declared Republicans and the four declared or likely Democrats as “serious,” we find:
Except for Smith and Obama, all previous serious candidates had parents, grandparents and, usually great grandparents, who were born in the United States. Today, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal all had foreign parents; and two candidates, Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, have or had foreign wives.
For the first time, women are serious candidates, Carly Fiorina and Hillary Clinton.
Jindal, Cruz, Ben Carson and Rubio are, aside from Obama, the first candidates who are not vanilla white.
Bernie Sanders is the first Jew to become a serious candidate, and there are several Catholics: Martin O’Malley, Rubio, Joe Biden. Many evangelical Protestants consider that Mormons are not Protestants (or even Christians), so the two Romneys would, for them, be exceptions to the “all Protestant” characteristic, and so, for them, is Carson, a Seventh-day Adventist.
None of these characteristics has anything to do with being qualified to do the job, but in the past they had everything to do with being taken seriously.