The American people have just finally exhaled after enduring a long and tiring presidential campaign, and already the talk has turned to 2016. (“Talk” here meaning the blathering of TV’s “talking heads.”)
In my first “PR Presidency” class, we addressed this talk with a talk of our own. First, we talked about the many names rumored to be 2016 contenders, and then about just one of those names: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
My professor gingerly brought up the subject of Christie’s girth and then, as politely as possible, asked us, “Is Chris Christie too…fat…to be president?”
But, forgive me, this is my maiden editorial column in The Eagle, and I have neglected to introduce myself. My name is Ryan Migeed, I am a sophomore and I do not believe that Christie is too fat to be president.
The problem with the “Christie is too fat” arguments is that they are all preconceived. He and his team of savvy politicos can anticipate any claim and prepare for it. “Heart disease” is countered with “no history in the family.” “High blood pressure” is refuted with “What presidential candidate doesn’t have high blood pressure in such a fast-paced campaign?” And the surest answer to any query is a clean bill of health from his doctor, which is entirely possible. (Granted, that bill of health would include a scribbled note from the doctor saying, “Lose weight,” but let’s ignore that for a moment.)
The kicker, of course, would be an exercise regimen, and many argue that if Christie starts to lose weight, he is definitely running in 2016.
But I argue that Christie can be a contender - and quite possibly win - without ever dropping a pound from now until Election Day 2016. His weight will be an issue, but only a subconscious one. His opponents won’t bring it up out of courtesy, and only reporters and town hall-goers will dare to broach the subject.
To be sure, Christie will be asked about his weight. But if he has a ready-made answer that displays enough humor (without getting angry at the premise of the question or the questioner’s right to ask it), he can effectively turn his weight into a non-issue.
Remember Ronald Reagan’s famous 1984 one-liner? When asked a question about his age—he would become the oldest president elected—Reagan coolly responded, “I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” If Christie can have a similar “Reagan moment” (and he can), he will beat the “Christie is too fat” argument.
Not to mention, Christie’s weight simply plays into his devil-may-care attitude. It is as much a part of his character as his aggressive press conferences. And characters do well on national television.
What is most interesting about this whole “Is Christie too large?” debate is that it seems to be divided on generational lines. In my class, many, if not most, students dismissed Christie’s weight as an unimportant factor. Meanwhile, our professor (who is about our parents’ age), could not accept the idea that the American people would ignore such an obvious trait.
Perhaps the youngest voting generation is more willing to overlook physical differences in light of policy differences. After all, we were the ones who helped propel the first African-American into the presidency. Perhaps we’ll do it again with the first modern president who happens to be…big-boned.
Ryan Migeed is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and the School of Communication and the vice president of AU College Democrats.