Could the weight loss backfire on Christie in 2016?

From a health standpoint, he’s got every reason in the world to drop the weight. From a political standpoint, though? Nonsense, says Harry Enten, and I agree. Christie’s 2016 problem isn’t that he’s “husky,” it’s that he’s a gun-grabbing, Medicaid-expanding, Obama-hugging believer in man-made global warming who, by his own admission, agrees with Andrew Cuomo on 98 percent of the issues. He can shed 200 lbs. but how’s he going to shed the RINO label?

He’s been mentioned, almost always in approving terms, in more than 500 episodes of “Morning Joe” since 2009. No medicine known to man can cure a case of RINO-itis that severe, my friends.

A 2010 University of Missouri-Kansas City study looked at how people reacted to pictures of a potential candidate of normal weight. This control group was compared to other respondents who were shown pictures of the same candidate, except the candidate’s picture was morphed to be obese. Everything else about the candidate including political affiliation, views, and background remained the same.

And did the candidate’s weight make a difference? If the candidate was female, extra weight was a small negative. That concurs with a survey this year by Lake Research that found the mere mention of a woman candidate’s physical appearance hurt them. This was especially the case when the appearance coverage was unflattering.

For men, however, the 2010 University of Missouri study found that being obese was not a negative. It was actually a large positive! Respondents were over 20 points more likely to have a warmer feeling towards the same male candidate if he were obese than if were skinny. The obese candidate was 10% better liked than if he were skinny. The obese candidate was also thought to be more intelligent than the skinny one.

That’s Enten, who points to polls showing that people tend to sympathize with Christie by finding jokes about his weight in bad taste and who notes that, after all, the guy already got elected despite his girth in a blue state running as a Republican. Obviously it’s not a dealbreaker, at least at the gubernatorial level. And it helps Christie that he defies the nastiest stereotypes of the obese, that they’re lazy, socially awkward, etc. The chief asset from his weight, I’ve always thought, is that it boosts his perceived authenticity. If you’re a low-information Republican voter looking for a candidate in 2016 and you’re not into Rand Paul for whatever reason, you’ll have a bunch of slick young pols to choose from — Rubio, Jindal, maybe Cruz, maybe Ryan — plus a big brash guy who looks and sounds nothing like any other major American politician on the landscape. He looks and sounds like some sort of coach or a co-worker known for not taking any BS from people. He’s pure poison to conservatives at this point, but if you’re a casual voter who’s less interested in ideology than in voting for someone who won’t be “politics as usual,” the big confrontational no-nonsense guy who looks like a lost extra from the SNL “Da Bears” skit might appeal to you. He’d still retain some of that vibe without the weight, but it wouldn’t be the same.

Or maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe the weight, or weight loss, isn’t his problem but rather the fact that he’s putting out that brash, confrontational, New York-y vibe in the first place. Philip Klein:

When Rudy Giuliani ran for president, his post-Sept. 11 rock star status faded over the course of the GOP primary. No doubt, he had a lot of problems that have been well reported, such as his liberal views on social issues, his messy personal life and his poorly managed campaign. But one thing I kept running into among voters in early states when covering the campaign was that his background as a New Yorker was a real turnoff and made voters view him as rude and somehow shady. As somebody who grew up in the New York/New Jersey area, I underestimated how repellant it could be. Christie has developed a national following for the YouTube clips of his epic confrontations with his adversaries. On the campaign trail with Mitt Romney around Iowa and New Hampshire during the 2012 primary season, Christie would be brought on the stage for a few minutes to do his New Jersey tough guy shtick. But I wondered at the time, and still wonder, whether the act would wear thin over the course of a long campaign.

“America’s Mayor,” who only ran for president in the first place because everyone loved him as a spokesman for New York after 9/11, was DOA in the primaries because he was … too much of a New Yorker? Good lord. Note to Christie: After you’re done dropping the fat, drop the accent too. Lucky for me that my blog posts are read rather than listened to or else I’d be disdained as an even shadier RINO candy-ass than I already am.

Klein notes, incidentally, that dropping the weight is a big help to Christie if only in that he’ll be better equipped physically to handle the rigors of campaigning for months and months on end. Undeniably true; that’s the trade-off in losing “authenticity.” Exit question: If Christie had the surgery on February 16, why’d he throw a fit eight days earlier when a former White House doctor politely noted that carrying around an extra hundred pounds or two wasn’t a smart health move?