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No empty suit: The Republican Chris Christie challenging Jon Corzine for governor in New Jersey

Fat Irish politicians a great American tradition!

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No empty suit: The Republican Chris Christie challenging Jon Corzine for governor in New Jersey

Say one thing for Irish American Chris Christie, the New Jersey Republican candidate for governor, he's no empty suit waiting to be taken to the cleaners by his opponent Jon Corzine.  It's hard to be when you are 350 pounds and counting.

Now supporters of Christie, who is three quarters Irish American, are outraged because Governor Jon Corzine is not so subtly using his weight against him. Corzine ads show Christie struggling to get out of car and generally lumbering around like a hungry brown bear seeking a snack.

Christie supporters are outraged because of the ads - but they seem to be working. The New York Times reports today that the race has tightened considerably and that respondents bring up Christie's weight without being asked.

That's unfair  - and also wrong. Some of the greatest Irish American politicians have been calorically challenged.

Consider Thomas 'Tip' O'Neill, the former Speaker of the House. Jimmy Breslin once remarked that it was 'hard to imagine someone this fat had anything to do with history.' But he did, and he was one of the most compassionate and successful politicians of his generation.

Then there was Ted Kennedy, Tip's Massachusetts colleague, who passed some of America's most important legislation when he was - well - fat.

Ted struggled with weight most of his adult life. I met him once after he had dropped 70 pounds on an Atkins diet. He looked haggard and awful, not the Teddy of old. Fat suited him.

Even Bill Clinton was a chubby bubba for long periods in the White House, wolfing down the old MacDonald's with ill-disguised glee whenever he got a chance.

Maybe it suits Christie too. Whatever his weight, it is his policies that count. Maybe he tips the scales in the wrong direction, but what is weighing on New Jersey voters' minds is whether he runs a lean and mean state government. In the end, in the scale of things that's all that is important.

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