Updated Jul 4, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Younger 2024 candidates highlight athletic prowess

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

From tennis to push-ups to running, candidates challenging former President Trump and President Biden are emphasizing their athletic abilities.

Why it matters: The messaging from the challengers is clear: They're young, they're energetic and in better physical — and perhaps mental — shape to do the job.

What we're watching: Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, 37, has incorporated tennis into his campaign schedule, hosting events like "Tennis with Vivek" and posting videos of himself playing.

  • A recent video of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., 69, doing push-ups and incline presses shirtless and in skinny jeans went viral.
  • The super PAC aligned with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, 44 — former captain of Yale's baseball team — mailed out baseball cards featuring DeSantis at bat and highlighting his stint in the Little League World Series. He even sat for a whole interview with Fox on his own hometown baseball field.
  • Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), 57 — a high school football standout — has blasted out a photo of himself sweaty, mid-workout on a treadmill, tossed around a football with his campaign manager, and filmed selfie messages while at the gym.
  • Miami Mayor Francis Suarez's entire campaign announcement video features Suarez, 45, running through the city of Miami.
  • Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, 56 — who's mulling a presidential bid — has been on the basketball court with state lawmakers.

Between the lines: Biden, 80, bikes and uses the Peloton — working out at least five days a week — and Trump, 77, golfs.

  • "There's an inherent contrast — that none of them will come right out and say," Chris Cillizza, author of "Power Players: Sports, Politics, and the American Presidency," told Axios.
  • "When you have a Democratic president who is 80, and about whom the public has major doubts that he is up to the job, having RFK Jr. doing pushups and showing off his physique is an obvious way to compare the two."

Flashback: Former President Obama was a huge basketball fan and frequently sank 3-point shots dressed in business attire at opportune moments, including days before the 2020 election in a Michigan gym while campaigning with Biden.

David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, wrote in his memoir, "Audacity to Win": "Obama looked like the future."

The bottom line: "Voters like the idea of their leaders as hale and hearty — representing the best of us," Plouffe wrote. "Sports is the easiest — and most easily digestible — way to do that."

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