Immer: The Biggest Loser: The presidential politics edition (column)
August 25, 2016
The 2016 U.S. election for president is now becoming, here in late August, as Alice in Wonderland would say, "curiouser and curiouser!" This is especially true for the Donald Trump campaign, now in its third (!) leadership change in the last two months.
The Donald with all his adolescent insults towards women, Hispanics, Muslims, African-Americans, the media, the disabled, prisoners of war and now even Ukranians has certainly zigged and zagged his way towards a crushing November defeat at the hands of a flawed, but at least grown-up Hillary Clinton, with her clearly superior government experience, temperament and knowledge of the issues.
Here in Colorado, his campaign is doing a terrible job by all measures. He trails Clinton badly in all statewide polls by double-digit average margins, and he has no real message, no organization and no field offices — the "get-out-the-vote ground game" usually essential to winning this state's nine electoral votes. Trump's "yuuge" deficit in state polls, so far, is not the usual August election scene here since Colorado is a competitive "purple" battleground state, with party registration demographics of 1/3 Republican, 1/3 Democrat and 1/3 Independent, with five Republicans and four Democrats in its congressional delegation.
However, Trump himself has nothing going for him in his resumé, with no government experience nor policies except his irritating slogan "Make America Great Again," so all he can do is attack Clinton from every angle and hope that some of his indiscriminate mud-slinging eventually sticks. This strategy, though, is not working in most battleground states, including Colorado.
Trump's latest point of attack is to question Clinton's health, stating (typically, with no credible evidence) that she lacks the "mental and physical stamina" to be president. One of his most passionate supporters, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, on Monday, Aug. 22 really piled on when he tweeted, "I think Hillary's tired…she looks sick."
However, facts, never a Trump strong point, indicate otherwise. Clinton showed excellent physical fitness in all the intense debates she had in the last year against Bernie Sanders. She recently testified before Congress for eleven grueling hours in one day, proving once again that she certainly does have strength and stamina, and that Trump and Giuliani are once again just blowing smoke. If anything, Trump is the one with more health issues statistically. Trump is 70, Clinton is 68 — not much of an age gap, but she is the younger of the two.
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More importantly, a quick internet search of the candidates' height and weight gives Clinton the edge in the significant measure of body mass index (BMI). BMI is a simple score widely recognized as a fitness measurement for both men and women, with a normal score being 18-24.9, overweight being 25-29.9, and obese being 30+.
We should use a different word than "normal" though, as the people with BMIs under 25 have achieved something quite significant. Let's go instead with the word "fit," which is more deserving, complimentary and praise-worthy. Hillary is 5 feet, 6 inches tall weighing 144 pounds, giving her a BMI of 23.2 (a good score, well inside the fit category). The Donald is 6 feet, 2 inches tall weighing 198 pounds (he looks heavier, but we will still stick with his official stats), giving him a BMI of 25.4, putting him into the overweight group. Conclusion: Clinton, the Democrat, is fit, Trump, the Republican, is overweight.
Trump's questioning of Clinton's health has no factual basis, especially in direct comparison between him and her. Actually, neither candidate has released current medical records. Recommendation: Just like almost everyone in Colorado gets a detailed blood printout every spring at the Channel Nine Health Fair, both Clinton and Trump should get a similar blood test done right away and then share the results with the country. Such printouts would not tell their whole health story, but it would at least be a good start.
Nationally, we see a similar pattern looking at state weight statistics as a macrocosm between more fit Democrat "blue" states and more fat Republican "red" states. It is impossible to use BMI for an entire state, but we do have good stats for obesity rates in each state, thanks to the National Institutes of Health. Interestingly, there are only five states (Colorado, California, Massachusetts, Vermont and Hawaii) plus Washington, D.C. that have obesity rates under 25 percent. Of these, only Colorado does not reliably favor Democrat candidates, but Colorado undoubtedly will also be a blue state this election, thanks in part to Trump's poor campaign here, plus the health observations already mentioned.
On the other end of the "scale," there are 13 states with over 30-percent obese population: ten "red" states — Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia, plus three "purple" battleground states — Iowa, Michigan and Ohio. Incidently, the three fattest states, with obesity rates over 35 percent, are West Virginia, Arkansas and Mississippi (all very red). Besides all their physical health problems, red states in general do not have very healthy economies, with lower incomes, less education and higher unemployment per capita in most cases than national averages. So much for current Republican leadership.
Donald Trump, and Republican candidates in general, do better in more unhealthy states, and Hillary Clinton and Democrat candidates are more likely to prevail in more fit states. An interesting article in Wonkblog on Aug. 13, 2016, by Jeff Guo and Max Ehrenfreund, showed that Trump did very well in GOP primary elections in areas where middle-aged whites had abnormally high death rates, more obesity and adverse health habits like poor diets, little exercise and patterns of heavy drinking and smoking.
Clearly, both Trump and Clinton benefit from politics of health identity. Trump gets lots of votes from people similarly overweight, and fit Clinton gets proportionally more votes from other fit people, areas and states. Younger, more fit voters, especially in the 18-35 age bracket, are supporting Clinton over Trump in high percentages, (Clinton 56 percent, Trump 20 percent). Conversely, seniors over 60, even with more health issues, are backing Trump over Clinton, but by lesser margins, which is one reason why Clinton is leading in all the polls. There are lots of fit seniors supporting Clinton.
This disparity is even affecting political advertising decisions. Trump's first TV ads are up this past weekend in four carefully targeted battleground states: Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Notice that Trump will not be initially advertising here in Colorado. It certainly appears that Trump's campaign leadership has decided not to waste time, money and other resources advertising here in its first cycle of TV ads, and may not even spend much here going forward. Health care is always a primary issue in American elections (the Affordable Care Act vs. whatever Republicans are for or against), but health is turning out to be a partisan political reality as well, which is why Hillary Clinton is going to win Colorado easily this coming November. Colorado is just too fit to vote for Trump.
Steve Immer, 73, is a lifetime registered Republican appalled at the current direction of his party. He has lived in Breckenridge, Colorado since 1982 and is a very fit senior like most of his neighbors. He is 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighs 157 pounds, giving him a BMI of 23.2, the same score as Hillary's BMI. In this election, he states, "I'm with her."
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