“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 better move around.
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 against the bulge.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R), who is on the Paleo diet, tracks calories and fitness on an Apple Watch. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) uses a Fitbit to counteract his love of beer and fried food.
Other candidates, however, are not so into wearing wrist devices. With the help of a smart phone, 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 re/code earlier 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 at 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 e-mail telling them how difficult 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 the 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 was passing out free treats including biscuits and gravy and sweet tea at stops.
“It varies,” Cruz said of the amount of walking he’s able to do on the trail. “Like the bus tour’s not great because you’re sitting in a chair too often in the bus. 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.
Jenna Johnson and Ed O'Keefe contributed to this report.