Picture of the Day: Bodyboarding Mitt and Other Scantily Clad Politicians

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With the latest snapshots of a politician cavorting at the beach, it's time to ask why we're forced to see our leaders in various states of undress.

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Screenshot via dailymail.co.uk

Mitt Romney spent the Easter weekend in La Jolla, California, where he owns a house that will soon be equipped with a car elevator. Although the water was still cool, the all-but-certain GOP nominee decided to go bodyboarding with his son Matt. A reddit user spotted him tromping down to the beach and snapped this photo. While Romney isn't exactly posing, he doesn't look reluctant to be photographed. And indeed, most people who are old enough for Medicare but look that trim in a wetsuit would be happy for the world to know.

Oddly enough, the swimsuit picture has become a staple of the campaign. This year, we've been treated (or not) to a photo allegedly depicting Newt Gingrich sunning himself on a rock and another, confirmed image of Rick Santorum topless. Santorum, who is aware that he is not as fit as Romney therefore saw fit to apologize for his appearance.

These images follow closely on the iconic photo of Barack Obama swimming shirtless in Hawaii in December 2008:

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And before that, there was the fatal footage of John Kerry windsurfing, which George W. Bush's ad team was able to turn into a devastating ad during the 2004 campaign.

But lest you think this is a new craze driven by a media more eager to cover celebrities than politicians, the real question is, what's with all these Massachusettsans and water sports? We direct your attention to the 1992 Democratic presidential primary. Former Bay State Senator Paul Tsongas was running for the nomination, but faced questions about his health after an earlier bout with lymphoma. To demonstrate how robust he was, he went to a pool in Andover, Massachusetts, trailed by the press corps, donned a Speedo, and swam the breaststroke. C-SPAN has the video (it's not embeddable, but the clip starts around 6:00). Here's a screenshot:

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In any case, it's a disturbing trend. Let us all hope that the folks at Campaigns and Elections don't take a clue from Sports Illustrated and launch a swimsuit issue.

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Presented by

David A. Graham

David Graham is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Politics Channel. He previously reported for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The National.

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