According to a recent (unscientific) poll, 20 percent of Americans wouldn't vote for Chris Christie for president simply because he's fat. Even big fans of the NJ governor despair of his chances at the presidency because they think his rotundity will lose him too many votes from people repelled by his appearance or concerned about the implications of his weight on his health.
But is it true that a fat man can't win the presidency?
Many people didn't expect to see an African-American president in their lifetime. A woman has become Speaker of the House. A Mormon is the on-again off-again front-runner in the GOP presidential primary. All kinds of artificial barriers are falling. Perhaps the next prejudice to fall should be the one against crude, bullying fat men.
Paul Campos points out that Christie's weight could actually help him, in a couple of ways, particularly in the GOP primaries:
In the context of contemporary American politics, an unapologetically fat body, at least a fat male body (again, it should be obvious that putting 50 pounds on Michelle Bachmann or Sarah Palin would instantly destroy their presidential aspirations), could well function as a kind of symbolic flipping off of the endlessly intrusive nanny state, so despised by both libertarians and cultural conservatives.... [T]o take advantage of this sentiment he has to stop being a “good” fat person—that is, he needs to become unapologetic about his body, rather than putting on the shame-ridden performance expected of fat people by the health police.
He seems smart enough to want to stay out of the 2012 race, but it will be interesting to see how this factor plays out if he runs in 2016. Maybe he'll pull a Huckabee before then and slim down. If not, I can't see it being overtly any kind of significant issue. But as an unspoken one, I think overall it would be a big plus for him. It would have a perverse appeal for the Tea Party crowd, who seem to want to go against the grain of things just for the hell of it. They'd love nothing more than a symbolic repudiation of Michelle's vegetable garden and the model of healthy and sensible eating habits it represents, because the most important thing is poking a finger in the eye of liberal sensibilities, no matter how worthy and common-sense they are.
I think his weight would actually be a plus for him because, with 34 percent of Americans now obese, he could run as a true everyman, at least in pant size.