When Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to crowds, he doesn’t stand still, pacing around stages and ballrooms, gesticulating wildly to connect with audiences. Sometimes his speeches have the feel of a megachurch sermon, other times a TED Talk. But it turns out pacing has another benefit: He can rack up steps on his Fitbit.
“Let’s see, where am I today?” Cruz said aboard a bus traveling between campaign stops in Alabama as he looked at the black Fitbit on his left wrist and saw how many steps he had taken that day. “It’s not going to be very impressive. Eh, 5,193. That’s not bad.”
That day, Cruz went to a church service and delivered a stump speech.
“You know how I got that? Because I pace when I’m talking,” he said. Cruz often uses a wireless microphone so he can move around better.
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It’s a tale as old as presidential campaigns: the attempts to stay healthy and fit on a campaign trail paved with pie, pork chops and late-night pizza. This election cycle, candidates and their staffs are deploying new weapons in the battle of the bulge.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is on the Paleo diet, tracks calories and fitness on an Apple Watch. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker uses a Fitbit to counteract his love of beer and fried food.
Other candidates are not as big on wearing wrist devices. With the help of a smartphone, a Fitbit can track the number of steps taken in a day, calories consumed and hours slept.
“You can tell I am not doing Fitbit,” Hillary Clinton told the technology news website Re/code this year. “I’m not in a wearable frame of mind.”
Walker’s family and staff all wear the devices, and the candidate often talks about his Fitbit on the campaign trail — even more than some actual policy issues. Walker tries to log at least 10,000 steps a day and sometimes increases the number with a run.
He told CNN that he paced the grounds of the Wisconsin Governor’s Mansion while memorizing his announcement speech.
“I got a lot of Fitbit steps. I got about 20,000 each of those days,” he said.
Cruz even made an entreaty to supporters in a campaign fundraising email telling them how hard it is to spend time on the campaign trail, which involves being away from his family and eating a lot of pizza.
The Texas Republican said he racks up steps when the Senate is in session because he walks everywhere (almost always in black cowboy boots). The bus tour, which wound about 2,000 miles around the South, wasn’t great on the fitness front. It didn’t help that the campaign passed out free treats at stops, including biscuits and gravy and sweet tea.
The amount of walking he does on the trail varies, Cruz said.
“Like the bus tour’s not great because you’re sitting in a chair too often in the bus,” he said. “When the Senate’s in session, it’s great because you’re walking.”
The tone for any presidential campaign is set by the candidate, and Cruz is certainly setting his, particularly where fitness is concerned. His staffers also wear Fitbits and compare steps at the end of the day.