This post has been updated and corrected.
The odds are good that George W. Bush is better educated than you. Likewise Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. For all of the low-brow yammering about a president you'd want to have a beer with, Americans keep electing people with post-graduate degrees.
But for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), one of the 13,682 Republicans who seem to be considering a run for the White House, his lack of a college degree has become something he's been forced to address.
In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Wednesday, Walker batted away the question as best he could. "I say I'm like the majority of people in America," he said. "I'm someone who went to college, had the opportunity in my senior year to go and take a job full-time ... and I took it, thinking someday, maybe, I’d go back." Then he met his wife, and they had a kid, and the rest is history.
Walker's right; most Americans haven't completed college. Data from the Census Bureau put the percentage of adults over the age of 25 that have finished college at 31.7 percent in 2013 -- up significantly since the 1960s, but still indicating that two-thirds of Americans don't own that expensive bit of paper.
Walker's real spin, though, came a bit later. "I've got a master’s degree in taking on the big-government special interests," he said, "and I think that is worth more than anything else that anybody can point to."
That, as far as we know, is not a real degree -- though the University of Grover Norquist probably offers honorary diplomas. Walker, if elected president, would be the first since Harry S. Truman to have not graduated college, according to an overview from Rasmussen College completed in 2013. The last president to have not attended college at all was Grover Cleveland, who was so dumb that he won the presidency twice in non-consecutive terms.
Update: A number of people reached out to ask why Presidents Nixon and Ford weren't identified as having doctorate degrees in the law. The answer is that they (and Presidents McKinley, Hayes, and Taft) got Bachelors of Law degrees. We've changed the heading from "juris doctorate" to the more general "law degree" on the graphic; those presidents are indicated with striped blue bars.
Many Americans would likely be quick to say that the decision they'll make on voting for a president isn't tied to whatever degrees that person holds. But in recent years, we've had the best-educated crop of presidents in our history -- the first time three presidents in a row have had post-graduate degrees.
Walker is clearly no dummy, but he'd better hope his "master's in battling big government" line doesn't become something he needs to offer very often.
Correction: The second graphic in this piece has been updated to reflect Carter's B.S. from the U.S. Naval Academy. Eisenhower and Grant also graduated from military academies, but prior to the issuance of Bachelors degrees. We also updated the law degrees, as explained above.