Analysis

Chris Christie: Would Americans elect a fat president?

In our image-obsessed times, many think that the New Jersey governor's heft could work against him should he decide to run. Others say it could be an asset

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's weight has made him the target of late night show jokes and vicious political attacks, notably in the 2009 gubernatorial race where incubment Gov. Jon S. Corzine released a TV ad focusing on the plus-size Christie's girth, noting that he "threw his weight around." Now, amid speculation that Christie could make a bid for the GOP presidential nomination, commentators are revisiting Christie's substantial figure. In our media-saturated age, would the overweight Christie face a disadvantage?

It could put him at disadvantage: While I'm a fan of the governor, let's face it, he's "fat, some would say grossly obese," and because of that, "he has no chance of winning the election," says Palash R. Ghosh in the International Business Times. We haven't had a big president in decades — since the 300-plus pound Taft in the early 1900s — and  "in an age of relentless, 24-hour-a-day news cycles... appearance and looks often dominate the discourse." Like it or not, "political candidates are now packaged almost like pop stars." Christie's weight would also raise questions about his ability to withstand the physical rigors of the job."Chris Christie's chances of ever becoming President? Slim to none"

But times are changing: In these times, "people want something different, something out of the ordinary ... someone who is willing to stand up and confront problems," John McLaughlin, a GOP political consultant, tells ABC News. While I've typically advised clients to watch their weight, "being a picture-perfect candidate" isn't as important as it once was. Yes, says Doug Muzzio, a Baruch College political scientist, quoted in the same article. "Maybe this is a time when you need someone to be a bull in a china shop," and Christie is certainly bull-proportioned. "Chris Christie: Is New Jersey governor too overweight to become president?"

And his bigness could send a bold message: "In the context of contemporary American politics, an unapologetically fat body... could well function as a kind of symbolic flipping off of the endlessly intrusive nanny state, so despised by both libertarians and cultural conservatives," says Paul Campos in The New Republic. That could serve him well in the GOP primaries, though he'll have to stop apologizing for being fat and really own it. Of course, thanks to ingrained sexism, fat power could only work for a man. "Putting 50 pounds on Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin would instantly destroy their presidential aspirations.""Lay off Chris Christie's weight! It might just help his chances."

This shouldn't even be an issue: "Ugh," I can't believe we're even talking about this and moralizing about Christie's weight, says Dodai Stewart at Jezebel. Other overweight public figures have done quite well for themselves. "One word, guys: Oprah.""Could America ever have a fat president?"

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