Wednesday, March 02, 2011

GOP's Fat Chances for 2012

Since William Howard Taft a century ago, no American president has come close to matching his portly presence at 300 pounds, but next year's Republican field could change that.

The subject comes up after a GOP split over Michelle Obama's campaign against obesity, with conservatives mocking the First Lady as Mike Huckabee and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie applaud her efforts to slim down chubby children with healthy diets and exercise.

In the TV era, from Eisenhower to Obama, White House occupants have all been relatively trim, but potential candidates like Huckabee and Christie could change that.

The former Arkansas governor wrote a book about losing 100 pounds but has gained some of it back with problems over what comes out of his mouth as well as what goes in, while Christie notes that "it’s a really good goal to encourage kids to eat better...I’ve struggled with my weight for 30 years, and it’s a struggle."

In the last election, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were breaking barriers of race and gender, but 2012 could focus on heft. With not-so-slim Newt Gingrich champing at the bit to be the first out of the GOP gate and Haley Barbour waiting in the wings, the Taftish caucus in primaries could be sizable.

It would be brave of Republicans to meet head-on the impression that they are the party of fat cats by nominating a candidate who eats heartily and doesn't spend so much of his presidential time trying to jog pounds off, as Bill Clinton and George W did.

If Sarah Palin decides to run, she will be a formidable figure but would be well-advised to stop criticizing Mrs. Obama over "food policing" and skirt the poundage issue. In hard economic times, voters won't care much about whether their leader could cut a good figure on "Dancing with the Stars."

Update: Meanwhile, the body count in the Mainstream Media is mounting as Gingrich and Rick Santorum lose their paid gigs with Fox News. Newt may have to make up the income by signing on as a spokesperson for Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig.

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