How Selling a Political Candidate is Now Like Coming Up With a Best-Selling Magazine Cover

Frank Bruni writes in the New York Times that “Politics Isn’t Pretty. But Politicians Are.”  The opening grafs:

At a Beto O’Rourke rally near Dallas shortly before the midterms, Sonia Qutob, 41, turned to her friend and asked what was clearly the most pressing question about the candidate.

“Do you think,” she said, “that he needs a second wife?”

O’Rourke seems to me plenty happy with the first. But a fangirl can dream. And I got the sense that many fangirls and no small number of fanboys did precisely that. At the rally immediately preceding the one where Qutob swooned, dozens of them mobbed O’Rourke and clamored for selfies. The passions that animated them were clearly more than political.

Before we leave the midterms too far behind and exhaust our fine-grained analysis of the electorate’s every cough and sputter, let’s take a moment to be shallow, which is to say honest. O’Rourke and Andrew Gillum soared to fame and impressive vote totals in, respectively, Texas and Florida because they were eloquent, energetic and empathetic counterpoints to their Republican rivals and to Donald Trump.

Also, they’re hunks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York became the youngest woman ever elected to the House on the strength of her story, the purity of her vision and the smarts of her strategy.

But her celebrity isn’t hindered by her gorgeousness.

Bruni goes on to say that “many candidates’ personas are inseparable from their looks, whether those looks cast them as bookish, nurturing, approachable or, yes, hot. And in politics, as in much else, hot helps.

“From a very early age, we’re drawn to more attractive faces — even babies prefer that,” Deborah Rhode, a Stanford University law professor, told me.

Rhode mentioned John F. Kennedy as a prime example from the past of a politician assisted by his appearance. She mentioned Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, as an example from the present.

Dick Stolley, the founding editor of People magazine, probably wouldn’t be surprised that young and good-looking sells in politics pretty much the way he sold People magazine on newsstands.

Stolley’s first two cover laws:

1. Young is better than old.

2. Pretty is better than ugly.

Number three was “Rich is better than poor”—also increasingly important in politics.

Sadly, his final cover law was “Nothing is better than a dead celebrity”—his two best-selling People covers of all featured the untimely deaths of Princess Grace and John F. Kennedy Jr.

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