Getting Fat for The Cause

In an interesting piece for the New York Times suggesting that Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush are struggling with the perception that they are old fogies with outdated ideas of “compassion” and “moderation” that younger, hipper Republicans have outgrown, Jonathan Martin begins with this observation about Huckabee that somehow had not occurred to me:

Three years before he ran for president in 2008, a newly slim Mike Huckabee peddled a book with a title that doubled as a lecture: “Quit Digging Your Grave With a Knife and Fork.” Now, as he considers a second White House run, he has written another book with a decidedly different but equally direct title: “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy.”

Mr. Huckabee’s earlier effort delivered a “12-step program to end bad habits and begin a healthy lifestyle,” as the subtitle had it. It is almost unthinkable that an aspiring Republican presidential candidate would do the same today, given conservatives’ strenuous opposition to Michelle Obama’s healthy eating and exercise campaign.

In its own vivid way, Mr. Huckabee’s march from author of a self-help and clean-living guide to cheerleader of artery-clogging calories and conservative traditionalism highlights the Republican shift during the Obama era.

Like many people, I had sort of figured Huck’s renewed girth, like Al Gore’s when he was the subject of presidential speculation a while back, was a negative indicator of political ambition. I’d believe he was running for president when his weight again began a downward trajectory. So no, it didn’t cross my mind that a defiantly fat Huck was a living reproach to the Obamas, and an implicit apology for the former Arkansas governor’s past PC habits. Maybe Fox News will make this all plain by hosting a pie-eating contest among the GOP presidential wannabes along with the debates.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.