(The Root) — The Olympics and presidential elections have more in common than we sometimes acknowledge. Both take place every four years. Both are fiercely competitive. Both cost a great deal of money and take years of sacrifice and preparation to make it to the finish line. International eyes watch both competitions out of curiosity and diplomatic self-interest. But perhaps the biggest similarity: One error can make the difference between becoming a lifetime legend and ending up a long-forgotten footnote in history.
Though he wasn’t actually competing in the 2012 Games, Gov. Mitt Romney (who is competing in the 2012 presidential campaign) recently got a crash course on this last point. His gaffe-plagued London trip is considered one of his campaign’s lowest moments to date, by both conservatives and critics alike. His earlier-than-usual announcement of his vice presidential pick, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, seems to reinforce the notion that after hitting rock bottom in London, Romney’s campaign needed a dramatic pick-me-up — fast.
So in celebration of the conclusion of the Olympics, and the fact that this year’s games gave the media not only the biggest sports story of the year but also one of the biggest stories of the presidential campaign so far, here is a list of Olympic athletes and their political counterparts, on the campaign trail, on the hill and even in the White House.
Feel free to weigh in with your own suggestions in the comments section.
President Barack Obama and Ashton Eaton, Olympic Decathlete, USA
Michael Phelps may have won the most medals and Usain Bolt may have broken records, but decathlete Ashton Eaton proved that he has the most endurance. Eaton won gold in the decathlon, completing 10 events over two days, among them the long jump, the high jump and the 1,500-meter.
After spending the last three-and-a-half years as one of the most under-siege presidents in U.S. history, President Obama likely feels as if he has survived the ultimate test of political endurance. The president and Eaton share similar backgrounds (black fathers and white mothers). Additionally, both are known for being less flashy and temperamental than some of their counterparts, to the criticism of some of their fans and the relief of others.
Gov. Sarah Palin and Lolo Jones, Olympic Hurdler, USA