Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, left, looks on as vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan, speaks during a campaign rally on Mon., Aug. 20, 2012 in Manchester N.H. (AP Photo)

There are many ways in which Mitt Romney’s choice of Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate can be called radical. Ryan, for instance, has a radical economic vision, one that calls for turning Medicare into a voucher program, slashing tax rates for the wealthiest Americans and making up for the lost revenue with severe cuts in all non-defense spending. He also has a radical agenda when it comes to women’s health, one that includes abolishing a woman’s right not just to abortion, but to various forms of contraception and in vitro fertilization.

But if the Bush years taught us anything, it’s that most Americans don’t pay much attention to policy or its moral consequences. They’re more concerned with the shiny surfaces of American politics than the dank depths.

And it is in this arena that Mitt Romney ‒ for all his dithering and flopping and gaffing elsewhere ‒ has proved most radical of all. In teaming up with Ryan, he has forged the hottest presidential ticket in American history.

To be honest, I have trouble concentrating when either man gives a speech. And I’m an avowed socialist and heterosexual.

Meaning: the best looking.

Should this matter to voters?


Does it matter to them?

Hell yes.

In terms of pulchritude, presidents have traditionally fallen into a few basic categories: Bearded Grizzlies (Hayes, Harrison, Grant, Garfield), Distinguished Fatties (Taft, Cleveland, McKinley), Geeks with Glasses (Wilson, Truman), Grumpy Baldies (Hoover, Eisenhower, Quincy Adams).

But a quick inspection of the recent archives reveals overwhelming evidence that American presidents are becoming hotter and hotter. The gold standard, obviously, is John F. Kennedy. But Ronald Reagan was a matinee idol, and both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama rank as what the Internet wags call a PILF (President I’d Like to F***). And who can forget Sarah Palin, a vice-presidential candidate who was actually hotter than either of the actresses who portrayed her onscreen?

What marks Romney/Ryan as so unique is the combined stud quotient. It would be sort of like if George Clooney chose a young Paul Newman to be his running mate.

To be honest, I have trouble concentrating when either man gives a speech. And I’m an avowed socialist and heterosexual. Instead, I tend to mute the television and stare into each man’s eyes, which are conveniently blank. And how I covet their hair! Those thick, shiny manes, impervious to the ravages of aging, and gleaming with product.

I will attempt to show some restraint when it comes to discussing the candidates’ physiques. But let me just say that I know I’m not alone in hoping for a wet T-shirt contest as a potential adjunct to the debates. Ryan, as the world now knows, has one of those sinewy physiques honed by early morning workouts.

But don’t let Mitt Romney’s age fool you. There aren’t a whole lot of 65-year-old grandfathers who would choose to dress in a wetsuit in the first place, let alone to peel it down for a candid family pic.

This is what makes the choice of Ryan so bold, in my view. After all, the square-jawed Romney has spent his entire adult life as the most handsome man in any given room, usually by a factor of two.

In choosing a majordomo, he could have played it safe with dweebs like Tim Pawlenty or Rob Portman. These were guys with enough experience in government to reassure voters nervous about Romney’s bona fides. In other words, he could have pulled an Obama and chosen a Biden: the ugly-but-safe choice.

Instead, he opted for an aesthetic game changer, a guy who could put a sexy spin on the boring old GOP mission of hacking the safety net to bits and enriching the richest Americans. Never mind that Ryan, in a dozen years in Congress, has passed all of two bills (one of them to rename a post office in his district). Never mind that at 42, he’s the second youngest vice-presidential candidate in history, just a year older than one James Danforth Quayle. What matters in this media ecosystem of vanity and stimulation is locating a man of the People magazine, not of the people.

Mission accomplished, Willard.

The ethics of your policies may turn my stomach. But I’m not afraid to admit that your veep selection has turned my head.

Tags: Election 2012

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  • Dennis Kelly

    Ryan?? HOT????? really??!! He has an Eddie Munster haircut, an Alfred E. Newman grin, and jug ears!!!

    • Kelly Haven Russell

      oh yeah, he’s hot.

  • Gail Knowles

    Oh boy, the rolled up sleeve thing is starting to get to me. I mean, Romney doesn’t even drive his own jetski, Anne always does. And i know Ryan has photos of himself killing animals, but he still has floated on his dad’s money his whole life. Biden take the train for Christ’s sake! ;)

  • jefe68

    What? Is this some attempt at satire?
    Ryan looks like a cross between Alfred E Newman and Eddie Munster.
    Mitt Romney is stiff as if he’s been starched one to many times.

  • Kathy Wnuk

    Wtf is WRONG with you? First of all, this is stupid – if the nominees were women, it would be sexist. 2nd of all, who gives a rat’s ass? Is this a wierd alternate universe and we’re in the 1950’s where men are objectified? I’m REEEEELLLY hoping that this is satire…..

  • Mel

    if the nominees were women I think this would be even more true. It wouldn’t be Mr. Almond’s article about it that would be the sexist part it would be the voters of the US. however, most people I know who were thinking of voting McCain didn’t because of his choice for VP. While I think Rom/Ryan are both highly unattractive (Romney less so.) this is the second (or the first of two) political comedian I’ve heard/read today joking about how attractive they are. I think that some people really do vote based on superficial ideas be they looks or if they would just rather have a beer with them. If you show up to a debate frazzled you’ll loose, even if your arguments and points are better made then your well dressed rival.

  • rpmcestmoi

    I hope you don’t receive payment for this sort of crap.

  • wareinparis

    Not that it matters a bit, but NO these are NOT the handsomest men ever on the ticket. One is made of wood or plastic; I am not sure which, but I know he’s not good looking, just well groomed. The other is a phoney with an over sized nose, probably from putting it where it doesn’t belong.
    Geez. Have we anything serious to talk about, or is it just Friday afternoon before the holiday weekend?!

  • Foxwriter

    Steve Almond is a brilliant writer, social observer, and political satirist. Terrific column. I think you have made all of us appreciate Mitt Romney for what he is: a bold thinker and self-confident man.

  • Sandra

    Romney’s sneer and arrogance make him unattractive.Ryan loks like the lean and mean machine that he is.
    There’s more to being attractive than being chiseled/

  • Ben

    Wtf is WBUR supporting with Cognescenti? This article isn’t worth publishing under your banner. It belongs in one of the “waiting room” mags at the checkout line at the grocery. If it’s clever satire, it certainly misses the mark. With a profoundly important election approaching, the readers of BUR surely don’t need to know of the author’s crush on this mean-spirited, lying punk. For real satire we can aways read Foxwriter.

  • cmills4470

    Handsome is as handsome does. Media coverage of Ryan’s unhandsome actions do not seem to cause him shame or guilt. See PSYCHOPATH – The Mask of Sanity, Special Research Project of the Quantum Future School. Ryan has several symptoms which fit the picture of a psychopath – including pathological lying. Mitt Romney as president would always be saddled with trying to figure out during crises whether Ryan was telling him the truth, and where Ryan’s loyalties “actually” lay. Psychopaths have no compunctions against using other people to get what they want – whether those other people are rich, poor, presidents, voters, Republicans, Democrats, children, youths, seniors, their own family members, etc. A psychopathic VP would consider themselves to be to be superior to Mitt Romney as president.

    Paul Ryan’s “loyalties” are not with 99 percent of Americans, and probably would not be with Romney when Romney disagreed with him. Ryan was one of the dozen or so US legislators who plotted on the night of Obama’s inauguration to sabotage, undermine, and destroy America’s economy.* America has yet to hear that those legislators have changed their minds. Paul Ryan is determined to “not” change course. Ryan can use those who attended the meeting to pressure Congress to vote for Mitt Romney’s (in reality Paul Ryan’s) financial legislation.

    Here is what Grover Norquist said at CPAC on February 13, …”We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget. … We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don’t need someone to think it up or design it…” It seems to me that those who were at the meeting, including Ryan, will still want to destroy America’s economy if they are substantially invested in “bets” that our government will default on her loans, like Cantor was in 2011, during the debt ceiling talks. “That” would not be pretty.

    *See June 8 Daily Kos article: Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan & Kevin McCarthy: Plot To Sabotage US Economy with Frank Luntz
    Also see Paul Ryan, Ayn Rand, and the Church of Satan

  • Mara

    First of all, Ryan has Dumbo ears and a nose that precedes him into the room. Second, who cares what they look like. Handsome is as handsome does and neither has done anything worth bragging about. Quite the contrary, in fact. So this article is a waste of my time. I’ll not be forwarding it to anyone.

  • CharlieK

    I just think this is funny. This is the only compliment you can give them…
    Saying that, I don’t find either attractive. I don’t like Ryan’s voice, both have sqweemy mouths and jaw lines. They’re both extremely nerdy and preppy. This picture alone makes them look like tweedle dee and tweedle dumb. They keep dressing alike. It’s weird. Barack is cuter…and he can get his groove on and has a sense of humor.

    Now let’s get back to their platforms and stop sexualizing them.

    • wareinparis

      Tweedle dumb and dumber. But, yes, let’s please talk about something that actually matters. We could start with crediting Obama for all that he has accomplished in spite of the most obstructionist Congress in recent history.

  • NamePick

    Cognoscenti – Thinking That Matters


  • banshee

    Yup, they’re a good-looking team. But that’s not why I’ll be voting for them.

  • Pingback: WesLive: Wesleyan's Community Blog » Blog Archive » Almond ’88 considers the good looks of the Romney/Ryan ticket()

  • Thinkin5

    No, I don’t see Ryan as handsome. I just see Eddie Munster grown up and looking odd. The ears, hairline, expression…don’t add up to attractive. Romney is attractive if you don’t know his personality. No personality, no sex appeal. But that’s really NOT the issue or qualification for the job so who cares?! Yes, let’s hope that this “is satire”. Mr. Almond needs to get a grip.

  • Hank Wanky

    LOL at the comments. If this were the Dem ticket, all you losers, and the press, would be swooning.

  • Englishprof

    They are both hot as hell, and as Mitt moves closer and closer to winning, he just beams with confidence and is more charming than ever. But I disagree that their eyes are blank. What are you smoking? These are two of the best and brightest pols out there. And Obama is not cute at all. He has big ears and a little head. His wife is beautiful, but he is just passable. Plus, he’s peevish and uninspiring. I’m looking forward to four years of smart guy eye candy. So take that, all you haters who posted here already!

  • starstruck

    Amen! I think both are very, very good looking! Also, being geniuses also makes them better looking. Ryan is cute, Romney is very handsome.

  • Kelly Haven Russell

    if they win it will be a very nice change. i might just watch the state of the union addresses. :D

  • Juke Box

    I don’t understand why people think Ryan is hot. If he didnt work out, he’d look like screech from saved by the bell.

  • HandsomeLustyBlackLadBrad1953

    Well,I’m not a Yankee,though my late mother was a Detroiter,but were I an American,I’d be a likely Presidential candidate on my boyish good looks-EVEN AT 59!!!!!-and black cowboy aura.(I’m an avid Country music fan who’s attempting to launch a song-writing career,and am said by a lot of the ladies to look GREAT in cowboy clothes.)

  • HandsomeLustyBlackLadBrad1953

    I’m NOT a Yankee,though my late mother was a native Dteroiter,but were I

    American and a Presidential candidate,I would be in the Romney-Ryan good looks
    brigade-I’m 5’9″,212 lb.,black,muscular-5’9″,212 lb.,181/2″ biceps,though like most dudes my age,I’m attempting to shed 25-30 lb.-with boyish good looks and a penchant for cowboy clothes.

  • HandsomeLustyBlackLadBrad1953

    Oh,I meant that I’m 59 years of age!!!!

  • HandsomeLustyBlackLadBrad1953

    As well as 5’9″,212 lb.,with 181/2″ biceps!!!!

  • Rebecca

    It was never about politics in a post like this because it can’t be. We never would have voted based on looks. Besides, it’s irrelevant now since Obama has won his second term. On that note, Ryan is okay but Romney is yummy. I’m a young woman full of raging hormones so forgive me.

  • seniorstudbrad1953

    Hank Wanky,your type-a fat,stupid,FUGLY old white dude-would be Newt Gingrich-Rob Ford.9I know Ford’s a Torontonian-Toronto being the capital of my home province,Ontario-but after all,your boy Teddy Cruz is a Calgary,Alta.,CANADA native,though he denounced his Canuck citizenship for a possible 2016 run for the “Re-Thuglican” nomination.If Ford and Cruz are

    out because of their birthplace,you boys will likely run Teddy Nugent and Michael the Savage (dude’s true surname) Weiner as your ticket!!!!!!!)

  • handsomerandyblackladbrad1953

    If I were a Yankee-I’m a life-long Windsor,Ont.,Can. resident,though my late mother was a Detroit,Mich.-directly across the U.S.-Canada border-native-Romney could have chosen Yours Truly for the “Brad quotient”-from 1968-’72,Brad was Barbie’s then-boyfriend Ken’s handsome black best bud-
    in my case,I’m regarded a boyishly handsome,muscular-I’m 5’9″,200 lb.,18-inch arms-black lad,60,who’s said to resemble a black cowboy stud IN AND OUT of my Wranglers jeans and other casual and/or Western wear,and am attempting to launch a Country music song-writing career.Plus,of course,Romney would have had a black V.P. to at least blunt some of the (all too true) opinion among the vast majority of African Americans that the Republicans are their sworn
    enemies.(Of course,being considered fairly bright,I’d have refused the “Mitten’s” outreach,as being around Republicans would likely have sickened me to the point of endangering my health!!!!!!

  • handsomerandyblackladbrad1953

    Though of course,I’d have refused the Veep offer because the “GOP” has become the “Goobers,Oddballs and Popinjays (plus I’m a Canuck,though my late mother was a Detroit,Mich.,native,on the Yankee side of the border from my
    life-long Windsor,Ont.,Can.,residence),I’d have given Romney a “Brad quotient”
    from 1968-’72,Brad was Barbie’s then-boyfriend Ken’s handsome black buddy;
    I’m regarded a boyishly handsome,muscular-I’m 5’9″,200 lb.,18-inch biceps-
    black lad,60,who’s attempting to become a Country music song-writer and said to resemble a handsome black cowboy stud IN AND OUT of my Wranglers jeans and other casual and/or Western wear.
    Then again,the “Re-Thuglicans” would likely have revolted at the thought of a black man on their ticket,so the Mitten wouldn’t have dared chosen me!!!!!

  • handsomerandyblackladbrad1953

    Mitt would be the SECOND-handsomest chap in any room he and I shared!!!!!!

  • handsomerandyblackladbrad1953

    English prof,you’re likely a “John Bull” bigot,but BELIEVE ME,BUDDY,if your wife saw me,she’d forget you even exist!!!!!(Provided you have a wife and/or girlfriend;your type seems perpetually unattached!!!!!!!)

  • handsomerandyblackladbrad1953

    starstruck,in addition to boyish good looks-AT 60!!!!!!!-I’ve got a 150-160 IQ.
    (Certified genius level,that is.)Chew on that awhile!!!!!!!