Steve Benen is right to scold the cable news media for spending too much time talking about who “looks like a president,” but, sadly, physical looks are something Republican voters (almost exclusively so) take into consideration.
Why else do we get so many Republicans who play dress-em-up? Republicans love superficial things. Their positions are certainly bumper sticker sized, why not their preferences for how a president should “look”? Abraham Lincoln would never be elected by today’s Republican Party (and, while Democrats aren’t so picky, Democratic focus groups and marketing experts would resoundingly shit all over Lincoln for scaring babies, etc…).
One of the things that scares Republicans more than anything about President Obama is the fact that he obviously doesn’t look like their model of a president. He’s not a grinning, somewhat doddering old white guy. An older, squinty white guy president gives them comfort because it fits into the pantheon. Instead, many Republicans think the president looks like a third world equatorial leader. Not “American” in the traditional sense. He doesn’t wear huge belt buckles or parade around in flight suits or climb aboard horses and ATVs. Worst of all, he’s black and the window through which a generation of brown people will leap into the Oval, usurping the White Republican 1950s utopia vision of America.
Romney, Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman all fit the paper doll vision of a Republican president, and it’s very likely we’ll see several of these guys dressing up in some sort of manly, all-American regalia. Republican voters love that shit. And as long as they do, it’s something that should be mentioned now and then — but only with disdain and snickering criticism.