Christie’s Heft: Not a Political Liability

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Michael Kinsley is convinced the New Jersey governor’s girth would inevitably tip the scales* against him in a presidential race. To make his argument, he points to a recent history of average-sized Presidents, claims Americans won’t “bond” with overweight politicians, and concludes with this creative flourish:

Unfortunately, the symbolism of Christie’s weight problem goes way past the issue of obesity itself. It is just a too- perfect symbol of our country at the moment, with appetites out of control and discipline near zilch. And it’s not just symbolism. We don’t yet know much about Chris Christie. He certainly makes all the right noises about fiscal discipline and seems to have done well so far as governor of New Jersey. Perhaps Christie is the one to help us get our national appetites under control. But it would help if he got his own under control first.

I don’t know about the “symbolism”– you can (and Kinsley did) interpret the political meaning of weight in any number of ways–but the notion that obesity presents an insurmountable electoral obstacle isn’t really backed up by much. Via political scientist John Sides, here’s a paper that found “obese male candidates were actually evaluated more positively than non-obese male candidates.”

And before you ask, they used digitally altered photos, not force-fed elected officials:

*I’m really sorry, honestly.