Congressional Candidate Dan Crenshaw, a 30-something ex-Navy Seal with an eyepatch, planned a live-streamed run through his potential district, a large part of Houston, in the spring. Although the run raised money for the victims of the devastating Hurricane that blew through Texas last year, Harvey, it also tried to rally support for the Republican candidate– and rally support it did. Crenshaw blew away his competition in the spring primary. But is this new trend of ‘fit politicians’ jogging with their constituents new? Who are some of the fit politicians in this upcoming cycle? We’re so glad you asked!
This trend of ‘fit politicians’ might be new in its current form, but the idea of fitness for politicians is anything but. While in the past, presidents John F. Kennedy and Franklin Delano Roosevelt hid their physical ailments, current presidents and senators are under immense pressure to release details about their mental and physical health to ensure that they are fit enough to do their jobs. Some former presidents have bucked this health trend, though– William Howard Taft, the heaviest president to have taken the White House, embarked on what many call the ‘first celebrity weight loss transformation’ in an attempt to humanize him in his bid for reelection. Although he ultimately didn’t get re-elected, he did lose the weight.
As we shift into the 20th and 21st centuries, more and more politicians are emphasizing their fitness and health. Take Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt, for example: he would hunt, fish, and exercise during his time off from the presidency, and earned that physique. A modern-day Teddy Roosevelt might be Andrew Schwarzenegger: a movie-star turned California governor who retained his ‘Terminator’ biceps during his time as a governor. Other fit politicians include Paul Ryan, speaker of the house and P90X enthusiast, Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, an avid cyclist, and Mike Ross, a former congressman representing Arkansas, who a close friend described as ‘runner and gym rat.’
Sometimes, though, fitness is not always the best political strategy. Jeb Bush, who attempted to run for the presidency in 2016, was following a paleo diet on the campaign trail and turned down a lot of local food, alienating himself from his base. And earlier, in 2004, John Kerry, the then-senator from Massachusetts, got caught windsurfing– his face was then promptly plastered across every newspaper, with everyone calling him some variation of the term elitist.
So, what, then, is the sweet spot for fitness? William Mutch, a lobbyist in the Denver area who has worked on a handful of campaigns, says that the “exercise that candidates choose to most associate with publicly depends, at least at the state level, on regional concerns.” So, while Mike Ross, the congressman, gym rat, and runner heads to the gym, he identifies most with hunting and fishing, two of the largest recreational sports in the region.