Even fitness guru Tony Horton couldn’t have imagined the transformation he helped generate, the political alchemy of turning House Budget Committee Chairman and vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R-WI) from a self-described policy wonk into the studliest guy on a presidential ticket since JFK.
At least that’s what you’d think if you paid attention to the news media or the Internet over the past week.
I couldn’t get myself to try that particular search, but I do note that a Google search of “Paul Ryan P90X” turns up hundreds of results.
On Thursday night, CNN’s Piers “half as many viewers as Rachel Maddow” Morgan interviewed Tony Horton, the creator of the P90X workout program, trying in the most desperate way to get the personal trainer to say something bad about Paul Ryan.
After showing a photo of Paul Ryan on the campaign trail eating a very yummy looking lunch, Morgan, who doesn’t look like the heart-healthiest guy around, offered this deep insight: “Now that is one of the biggest hot dogs I’ve ever seen. Massive amount of fries around him. Looks like a lot of Cokes as well. Now that’s a bad move, isn’t it?” Horton wouldn’t bite, if you’ll pardon the pun.
An apparently envious Morgan also suggested that Ryan was either obsessive or unhealthy to have such low body fat and even asked Horton whether Ryan “was a good payer,” to which Horton replied that he worked with various members of Congress free of charge.
CNBC also interviewed Tony Horton on Friday morning. “Squawk on the Street” co-host Melissa Lee (a 37-year old Harvard College grad who hosted a CNBC special on “Porn: The Business of Pleasure” and apparently knows a hottie when she sees one) began the discussion saying “before the budget plan there was a beach body…the man behind the physique is Tony Horton.” (Apparently the Ryan rush is helping P90X business during what is usually the slowest time of the year for sales, showing that just by having fun Ryan does more to help the economy than Barack Obama does when he’s actually trying.)
And you know you’ve made it as an A-list hot-body celeb when TMZ.com trumpets having a photo of you, as that site did on Friday with a posting entitled “The Topless Photo” showing Ryan and his wife, Janna, in swimsuits several years ago. (One wonders what she thinks of Paul’s being feted for his looks.) TMZ, which is generally a much better source of information than Piers Morgan is, notes that Paul’s “bod ain’t bad in the pic” (taken “right before Ryan got hooked on the P90X workout”) but that “Ryan has totally transformed his midsection in the past couple of years… and how he’s totally shredded with a killer 6-pack.”
How long until Paul Ryan has paparazzi outside of the D.C. political press corps? How long until he’s asked to pose for Men’s Health magazine, if not (à la Scott “America’s Sexiest Man” Brown) for Cosmo?
The Ryan-body-obsessed Washington Post posted a photo of occasional “fashion twins” Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan from behind, basically centering on their posteriors. Can you imagine the outcry from feminists if a photo was published of a female candidate’s body, taken from behind and centering on her rear end — no matter how appealing — and not showing her head? The screams of “objectifying women!” would be deafening. I trust Romney and Ryan take no such insult, and Tony Horton is taking the whole uproar all the way to the bank.
The Obama campaign team, and particularly his henchwomen Stephanie “Never Heard of Joe Soptic” Cutter and Debbie “Never Heard of Bill Burton” Wasserman Schultz, must feel that they’ve gone through the political looking glass. They now live in a dystopian nightmare in which Paul Ryan metamorphosizes, reverse-Gregor-Samsa-like, from a creature who wants to eat senior citizens into someone who might remind voters — most dangerously women and young adults — that Barack Obama is not the only “cool” or “sexy” guy in politics.
Could it really be, Cutter-Wasserman might be asking herselves, that that Paul Ryan is being changed in the eyes of voters from a heartless safety-net-shredding radical into an object of desire or — dare I say it without feeling that even I have finally gone too far? — a real person, a human we can relate to, if perhaps on the slightly extraordinary side of ordinary?
Ryan has been transformed in less than a week, with the help of the liberal media, into a potential negative for Republicans (on a Mediscare basis, though Ryan himself is certainly unafraid of the debate) into the most unlikely competition for Barack Obama in terms of personal likeability. I say unlikely not because Paul Ryan isn’t likeable; having known him for more than a decade, I can state with certainty that he is extremely likeable. But unlikely because anything close to a Republican VP candidate’s personal likeability should have been, and certainly was, the furthest thing from the minds — or at least the mouths — of those television and newspaper pundits and reporters who have so much invested in Barack Obama, both professionally and emotionally.
I did my own non-scientific study among my Facebook “friends,” particularly women, asking what they think of the media frenzy about Paul Ryan’s physique, and the result — admittedly from self-selecting respondents — shows why Democrats should indeed be at least as afraid of the current line of grudging media admiration of Ryan (even if his “don’t you love me for my mind?” pleas go unheeded) as Republicans might be of Mediscare.
A few women said things like “it doesn’t influence my vote in the least” and “how superficial,” but even those who didn’t like the direction of the conversation were not blaming it on Ryan. But a gentleman said that it’s “admirable” that Ryan does the P90X system. And Stacy, who describes herself as “some 43 year old broad living in her native state of Colorado,” said of Ryan’s physical condition that “It was the first thing I mentioned. In a very inappropriate way. So yes, he gets bonus points.” (I wonder if Stacy’s husband knows how she feels. Perhaps he can commiserate with Mrs. Ryan.)
How many such reactions do you need to narrow the “gender gap” (an average 8 point edge for Democrats over Republicans among women voters in presidential races over the last three decades) and the young voter gap (even wider than the gender gap in recent years) enough to give the GOP the White House in 2012?
Joy Hoffman, chairman of the Arapahoe County (CO) Republican Party, said that Ryan’s lifestyle “shows a desire to grab at life’s opportunities and run with it [whereas] the President and the Veep both seem rather automaton-like, not quite real, and very dour. The Dem candidates are projecting ‘Loser’ in their body language.”
Joy added that the media “haven’t quite figured out the difference among the four men, so they are calling it sex appeal.” She’s right. Between the icy-cool Obama, the idiot-savant Joe Biden (a characterization of him that is patently unfair to savants, and perhaps even to idiots), and the patrician Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan seems downright normal, real, one of us.
“Normal. Real. One of us.” Kryptonite to the Democrat strategy of slash-and-burn demonization.
Not only does the portrayal of Paul Ryan as a genuine (and studly) person make it more difficult to convince people that he wakes up each day, like Gru in “Despicable Me,” wondering how to commit the crime of the century, but it also makes the Democrat demonizers look as nasty, superficial, and desperate as they actually are.
In November, we may learn that P90X not only improved Paul Ryan’s six-pack, but also embellished, at least for now, the nation’s view of Republicans.