Suddenly, even political foes approve of Republican vice presidential pick Paul Ryan — for his looks.
Until being picked as Mitt Romney’s running mate, Ryan was almost exclusively mentioned in connection with his conservative ideas on solving America’s debt crisis.
But his brawn, not brain, is hot now.
Google searches for “Paul Ryan shirtless” have soared. Since there seem to be none online, bloggers have responded by photo-shopping the congressman’s head onto other naked bodies.
Ryan, 42, is an enthusiastic, even obsessive, student of the P90X fitness program, which combines weight training, nutrition planning and martial arts.
He reportedly maintains a body fat index of between six and eight percent, emerging as unusually athletic looking for a middle-aged American man — at least as lean as the unusually trim President Barack Obama himself.
With the election campaign mired in mud-slinging and an electorate deeply worried about the country’s future, this might seem a strange time to fixate on a candidate’s looks.
But interest in Ryan’s distinctly blue eyes and the state of his abdominal muscles has indeed begun to muscle in on views about his controversial proposals for curtailing Social Security.
TMZ said he “may be the hottest vice presidential candidate ever… but we’re not talking policy.”
Ryan’s morning workouts at the congressional gym are “fierce” and he is “totally ripped and has a six pack,” the celebrity gossip and news site cited sources as saying.
It’s not just TMZ. The august New York Times poked fun at the Romney-Ryan pairing of “cute Republican dudes.”
Ryan is “a nerd suddenly out of his loafers and into the sex dreams of Republicans,” the Times added, before tempering that with a high-minded diss of Ryan’s dress sense.
The Politico news website said “Paul Ryan is kind of hot,” while New York magazine saw him from the liberal Manhattan dating scene point of view: “Paul Ryan is your annoying Libertarian ex-boyfriend.”
Apparently uber-liberal political talk show presenter Rachel Maddow was speaking for many last year when she called Ryan “so handsome and boyish.”
In the Internet byways outside the mainstream media, the Ryan crush is in full spate.
heygirlitspaulryan.tumblr.com — a spin-off of the infamous Ryan Gosling “Hey Girl” meme — has gone viral with pictures of Ryan in different settings along with cheesy fanzine headlines.
One, superimposed over a photograph of Romney in American football uniform, reads: “Hey girl, let’s tackle the debt together.” Underneath, it reads: “Huddle up.”
Things get hotter, if not downright embarrassing, over at the blog Texts from Washington.
“OMG HIS EYES ARE POOL OF SEX. HOT SEX,” one entry reads.
On Twitter, GayPatriot wrote: “neutral objective fact: Paul Ryan’s eyes dreamy. Am I right, ladies?”
“Absofreakinlutely,” another contributor replied.
Not everyone is bowled over with the vice presidential wannabe’s physical attributes. On the Esquire politics blog, Charles Pierce referred to Ryan as “zombie-eyed.”
Psychology Today weighed in by worrying whether “just because Paul Ryan is hot, does that mean he is also objectified?”
But political and social analyst Rich Hanley at Quinnipiac University said that Ryan’s abrupt rise in the sex appeal polls — if not the election polls — is understandable.
“It’s more a commentary on how hotless the Republican Party has been for so many years — that you get a fresh face and you call him a beefcake,” he said.
When Republican politicians are often seen as the “man in the gray flannel suit,” Ryan looks more like his opponents.
“He represents, certainly to the conservative Republican voter, a guy who stays in shape, who has a youthful figure, something that’s usually associated with Democrats,” Hanley said.