Chris Christie tosses his fat in the ring
By letting it be known (to the New York Post) that he had lap band surgery on Feb. 16 and has already dropped forty pounds, Chris Christie semi-officially announced he's running for president. If he successfully addresses his obesity problem, his appeal to the huge bloc of overweight voters and those concerned about obesity could be a wild card in the coming presidential sweepstakes.
He's chosen an approach to dramatic weight loss that has a good chance of success. By creating a pouch at the top of the stomach which feels full rather quickly, one feels full with a much smaller amount of food than previously. You get to eat until you are full, so the willpower challenge is lower than a program of dieting and exercise: Christie told Tara Palmeri and Beth Defalco of the Post:
"A week or two ago, I went to a steakhouse and ordered a steak and ate about a third of it and I was full," he said of his newly tamed appetite. He declined to say how much he lost, but sources said he has already shed nearly 40 pounds.
Of course, in the governor's telling, this secret surgery was purely a personal decision, as his family responsibilities weighed heavily in his heart.
"For me, this is about turning 50 and looking at my children and wanting to be there for them."
That's touching, and no doubt true at some important levels. The decision to undergo the surgery may have many benefits beyond longevity. The timing is awfully suspicious. Ann Althouse cites a commenter who notes that 12 days before he went under the knife Christie appeared on the Letterman show and brought a doughnut, making fun of his own weight.
Prof. Althouse comments:
He also did an interview with Barbara Walters in December which engaged with the issue whether a very fat person can be President. I think those 2 performances were done to test public opinion and the surgery is evidence of the results of that test. There was the idea that perhaps people would think that being fat was endearing, humanizing, and part of his overall delightful personality. He went on 2 prominent shows, reaching different demographics, and - in so many words - made the argument for fat acceptance.
I assume internal polling was done, and he was forced to see that the "fat man" image wasn't going to work. He took action.
Whether or not polling was done, by aggressively acting to address his obesity problem, Chris Christie is adding tremendous luster to his public appeal, assuming he successfully completes the program and ends up losing 100 pounds, like his friend Rex Ryan, coach of the New York Jets.
Christie has accepted a lot of jabs over his weight, and that can only endear him to a nation that admires pluck and loves stories of overcoming handicaps and hardship. If and when he slims enough to approach the normal range, his appeal is likely to skyrocket, so long as he doesn't act like a jerk about it. Given his penchant for self-deprecating humor, that's not likely.
Conservatives are not happy with Christie for his deviations from doctrine and especially for his embrace and affirmation of President Obama after Hurricane Sandy. But his performance in the face of Sandy has earned him tremendous popularity in polling of New Jersey voters.
Because his blunt style comes across as genuine, and stands out from the norm of politicians these days, and because of his ability to draw Democrat votes, Christie can't be ruled out for the 2016 nomination. I don't think there is a surgical option available for him to repair his relations to conservatives, but we'll see.