Cory Booker
By not touching the snacks, Sen. Cory Booker has set off a new round of speculation. (Photo: Getty Images)

The biggest telltale sign of a presidential run used to be who was staffing up. Now there's a new bellwether: Who's slimming down.

In addition to grabbing the best advisers and communications directors, potential candidates are prepping for the electoral fray by getting in fighting shape, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

The paper tracked Sen. Cory Booker (D-CA) to a recent event, pointing out that even though the former Newark mayor hasn't officially announced a run for the 2020 Democratic nomination, the pants-size principle is in effect. Booker didn't touch the food and "has slimmed down to what may be his best shape in years," the Times said.

Also showing her hand (which is most likely empty of carbs): Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who has been Instagramming her workouts, posting photos of herself limbering up on a pilates machine and doing tricep presses.

 

Although both Booker and Gillibrand have denied that their workouts have anything to do with their presidential aspirations, but the Times points out that shaping up to prep for a run has historical precedent. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush lost 40 pounds before throwing his hat in the ring for the 2016 GOP nomination, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie underwent weight-loss surgery in the years before he joined that race.

For 2020 candidates, a focus on healthy living would provide a clear contrast to President Trump — who said he eschews exercise because the human body has the equivalent of a battery that wears down — and appeal to a Democratic base that gets activated over youth and vigor. Those optics were strategically deployed in the midterm elections: Beto O'Rourke, who narrowly lost his Texas Senate race to Ted Cruz, held campaign events while jogging, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who won her battle, spoke about undertaking Ironman triathlons and other extreme races.

It could also be an easy way to appeal to those nostalgic for the Obama presidency. Both President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were visibly devoted to healthy eating and exercise, personally and in policy. 

For Booker and Gillibrand, it could just be business as usual. Both have written and spoken about their battles with weight in the past. Booker, a former college athlete, has talked about his "up and down" physique — and affinity for cauliflower — on social media. Gillibrand contributed a food diary to Self and devoted a chapter in her book to how she lost 40 pounds after the birth of a child, fielding sexist comments from colleagues along the way.

"I don’t like being judged on my looks and, frankly, I’d like to spend less time thinking about my appearance, but there it is,” she wrote. “I’d always wanted voters to know that I’m a tenacious person, and what finally convinced them was that I’d possessed the determination to lose 50 pounds.”

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