May 7th, 2013
02:59 PM ET
9 years ago

How Christie surgery weighs on 2016

(CNN) - Chris Christie says it was family rather than presidential politics that convinced him to undergo weight-reduction surgery.

"I did this for myself, my wife and my children," Christie, who turned 50 last autumn, told reporters Tuesday.

"It had nothing to do with running for governor this year, with running for president at any time in my life if I ever decided to do that," added Christie. "It may sound odd to some people but this is a hell of a lot more important than running for president."

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But regardless of his motivation, the news that the heavyweight New Jersey governor had lap-band surgery in February will have an effect on his chances of winning the White House should he decide to run for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

While the surgery and anticipated weight loss should negate the nagging question of whether a person as obese as Christie is healthy enough to endure the demands of the presidency, it won't help him with suspicions by those on the right over his conservative credentials.

"I think you'd have to say that losing weight was a prerequisite for him for running for the presidency. His weight was a liability," CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger said.

Christie's weight was an issue in his 2009 run for governor, when he defeated Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine. Christie's girth was portrayed unflatteringly in campaign ads by Corzine's campaign.

Christie's weight has not been an issue as he runs this year for re-election to a second term: A Quinnipiac University poll of New Jersey voters conducted in March indicated that 68% of Garden State voters were comfortable with an overweight candidate, with just just over one in five holding reservations.

But running for the White House is a whole different ball game.

"When you start playing on the presidential stage it becomes an entirely different story," Borger said. "People care about your health. They want to know that you can fulfill the rigors of the office."

GOP analyst and CNN contributor Alex Castellanos, a veteran of a number of Republican presidential campaigns, agrees.

"When you are running for president, who you are, your character, is as important as what you propose. Voters want to know if you understand their struggles. The governor of New Jersey is smart to open up about his health issues," said Castellanos, who is spearheading a new super PAC called the to refocus the party's messaging and policy goals.

The simple truth is that no one of Christie's size in modern times has gone on to win a presidential nomination, let alone the White House. But in this age of television and the Internet, this may be less about health and more about appearance.

"Health problems for presidential and vice presidential candidates don't seem to make much difference to American voters, dating at least as far back as Dwight Eisenhower's heart attacks. So any health-related concerns about an overweight candidate might have little impact. What is less clear is whether the outward appearance of an overweight candidate would affect many voters," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.

Christie's weight has been an issue of fodder for comedians and journalists alike, but primarily because the governor is regularly self-deprecating about the issue. In an appearance earlier this year on late-night television with David Letterman, Christie joked that he was "basically the healthiest fat guy you've ever seen in your life."

But he's also talked seriously of his struggles, saying at a news conference in February that, "I am making the best effort I can," when it came to his weight loss.

People may now pay attention to Christie to see how effectively he can lose weight, and the episode becomes part of his personal narrative, giving him a story to tell.

"He can now say that 'I'm devoted to my family, to my kids, I want to dance at my kids' wedding. That's something that appeals to voters," Borger said. "It might make him a little bit more personally appealing as someone who's admitted to a struggle that he's had a hard time overcoming and he's trying to deal with."

Castellanos agreed: "Voters are getting a lot closer to Chris Christie - the human being behind the politician - through his struggles with his weight."

If Christie's able to continue to shed weight and keep off the pounds, it removes one major stumbling block to any potential pathway to the presidency. But the New Jersey governor would still face serious obstacles if he made a bid for the GOP nomination, thanks to his stances on such issues as gun control, immigration reform, and climate change. And then there's his praise of President Barack Obama's response to Superstorm Sandy, which devastated parts of New Jersey just before last November's election.

"Getting thinner is not going to make conservatives love Chris Christie any more," Borger said. "They think he's a moderate. They don't like the way he embraced President Obama before the last election."

Filed under: 2016 • Chris Christie
soundoff (32 Responses)

    He'll have better chances running as an Independent.

    May 7, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  2. Wake up People!

    He could lose 400 lbs. I would never vote for this loudmouth, crass, obnoxious, Mitt Romney butt kisser, that treated our duly elected POTUS like crap until he needed something.

    The GOP has shown me in no uncertain terms how they feel about people who look like me.

    I will NEVER vote Republikkkan. Ever.

    Too bad he took the easy way to lose weight and couldn't or wouldn't push back from the table and exercise.

    May 7, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  3. Woman In California

    Liar. Anytime Christie's been called overweight, he's made it appear the public was lying about him. Now that he thinks he's suckered enough people into believing he's presidential material, he wants to have surgery? For me, he can have all the surgeries he wants but that will only change his outside. Inside, he's still a rude, loud mouthed, thug with absolutely no manners and one which I will easily reject at the polls.

    May 7, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  4. Woman In California

    @ Wake up!

    Amen sister. Me either.

    May 7, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    "How Christie surgery weighs on 2016"

    It will only weigh on anything if the MSM keeps reporting on it as if it's important and convinces people to agree that is the case. Left alone, nobody would give a flying rat's pink patoot about his tummy surgery and people would likely focus more on his policy positions and proposals. But hey, that's precisely what the MSM DOESN'T want to happen.

    May 7, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  6. ThinkAgain

    I'm sure he did it for both reasons. What's amazing is that he hasn't had a heart attack yet. He still could, easily, given how long his heart has struggled to pump blood through all that flab – and how his arteries must be completely clogged.

    I hope he has a successful recovery – and I would NEVER vote for him.

    May 7, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  7. ThinkAgain

    Why hasn't the GOP made a fuss about how much a food addict like Christie costs our medical system every year?

    May 7, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  8. Jules

    How Christie surgery weighs on 2016? Pretty heavy, would be my guess. Lots of before and after pictures ahead in this man's life – all the way to 2016 and beyond.

    May 7, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  9. Larry in Houston

    well I say congrats there, Christy – I wonder what the ratings would be if you went on the biggest loser ? Sort of thought it would be the most watched t.v. program since the super bowl – I mean, there would be an extraordinarily amount of people watching nbc

    May 7, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  10. Thomas

    I could see him as a VP under Jon Huntsman .

    Chris Christie would be a good VP , I wouldn't vote for him as president. Being Governor of New Jersey is like being La Ducha .

    May 7, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  11. cp

    Can't believe that Governor Chritie's weight is being discussed again. He states that he is doing this for his family and that should be enough. Can we find some real issues? We really do have time to discuss the presidential race.

    CNN seems to be focusing on non-issues rather than real stories of importance.

    May 7, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  12. Romney is Still NOT My Hero

    Just look at the over-stuffed, loud-mouthed, undisciplined, prize fighter N. Korea's got. We don't want that in this country. I'm glad he had the surgery, but the rest "weighs" heavily on self-discipline.

    May 7, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  13. Gurgle

    Shame he's depending on the republican party to endorse him. He's been openly praising the president in the past, and the right don't like this at all. The extreme republican view is: If they are anything other than snow white, loyal to a fault, and dumb as a stump, they're not worth wasting time on. The electable republicans are party followers, right down the line.

    May 7, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  14. sean

    It could be a Hillary/Christie ticket. Now.....who will run against them?

    May 7, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  15. Chas W

    His 2016 presidential slogan might be: "Put the lap band on federal spending with Christie in '16"

    May 7, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  16. Chiku

    Nothing this obnoxious pig slob does will ever impact politics. The media is just bored as usual.

    May 7, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  17. Susan

    Flipping pig. I'd never vote for a Republican, especially not one who can't control himself. If he can't be trusted with food, how can he be trusted with running the country? He can't. The Republicant's have destroyed their brand that they've thankfully ensured that a Democrat will be in the White House for at least the next 8 years. Thank heavens!

    May 7, 2013 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  18. Susan

    @Romney is still not my hero: I absolutely agree. Since he has no self discipline, then it's clear he isn't "fit" to lead.

    May 7, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    I think he should run as a Democrat and really, weight has nothing to do with his being a good or bad candidate. Most presidents have been thin and have been lousy!!!!

    May 7, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  20. snookers

    Whatever his reason, he made the right choice if he wants to become an elderly gentleman later on.
    Not too many around that heavy. A matter of longer life or early death in his instance.
    Best of luck to him. Would not vote for him though.

    May 7, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  21. Mrsesterhouse

    Up until today after reading the news about his surgery I was considering voting for him in 2016, obviously depending on his campaign and who was running against him. It's funny how the article spins it (and maybe that's the general theory) that he may have done it for a presidential running. I see it the other way and I don't know why (I guess this is the whole point) I haven't heard anyone else say it. Lapband surgery??? What happened to exercise and eating healthy. That is one of the major problems with Americans these days. Instead of working hard to fix a problem we just take the easy way out. Seems to me that easy shortcut could be very indicative of how he runs his politics.

    May 7, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  22. Keith

    He could always just eat better and exercise. He was a normal size when he was a teenager and a young adult so it's not like its a medical condition (like you always hear overweight people claiming about themselves). He packed on the pounds while he was in politics, and is now just trying to take the easy way out now. But I do not think that the surgery will affect his presidential run in a negative way.

    May 7, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  23. Andrew

    I laugh at you fools who want a 1 party system. You need Republicans, Independents, Libertarians. Otherwise no one can stop the Democrats from creating a dictatorship. This is a democracy, not Nazi Germany

    May 7, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  24. David

    Doesn't matter to me, no way he ever gets my vote for anything.

    May 7, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  25. elucidated1

    Christie thinks his weight loss is all about a personal decision. . .and not a public one. But he is in a public position and if he thinks he can just dismiss away the public. . .is a big mistake. Not many abrasive, take no prisoners, bully politicians have been elected to the presidency. . .but a bunch have run.

    May 7, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
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