By Betsy Rothstein - 09/22/08 05:16 PM EDT
Andy Baldwin, who starred on season 10 of ABC’s “The Bachelor,” isn’t announcing a candidacy for office just yet, but he acknowledges that every aspect of his life is pointing him in that direction.
When he’s not spending time with Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Lopez (whom he refers to as J.Lo), as he did last weekend at a Malibu triathlon, he’s honing his public speaking skills by crisscrossing the country to talk to high school students about the importance of service. He’s also making friends: Lopez, who asked for tips on surviving a triathlon, introduced him to her husband, singer Marc Anthony.
“I think ‘The Bachelor’ is one small thing in the grand scheme of my life,” Baldwin, 31, said in an extensive phone interview late last week. “I wish the media would focus on what drives me. That’s the thing that can be frustrating. You have that public persona and [it’s tough] trying to have that match who you are.”
But even the good Navy doctor recognizes that his reality TV fame has caught the public’s eye. He was in Washington this past weekend to appear at USO Casino Night with 2008 Miss America Kirsten Haglund, whom he calls “impressive.” He also turned up on the National Mall near the Washington Monument on Saturday, crisply dressed in his Navy whites, to recite a poem from a fallen soldier at a remembrance ceremony. The keynote speaker was 1992 presidential hopeful Ross Perot, who arrived wearing a navy suit, American flag-inspired tie and signature straw hat.
While there, Baldwin behaved much like a politician, in that he shook hands, hobnobbed with high-powered military and political types and cooed with babies.
“I don’t consider myself to be one,” Baldwin says of his newfound stardom. “I’m a normal person doing my job.”
That job and everyman attitude is a campaign consultant’s dream. Born and raised in Lancaster, Pa., Baldwin grew up in a middle-class family and worked for everything he had. In high school he worked three jobs — paperboy, lifeguard and proprietor of a lawn mowing business — to help pay for college. He attended Duke University on a Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship and then earned a medical degree at the University of California San Francisco Medical School.
Earlier this year, he was deployed to the South Pacific, where he dived on a recovery mission to find the bodies of POWs and MIAs. Baldwin is a general practitioner who specializes in undersea medicine. He came to Washington in April of this year to be a Navy medicine advocate at the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. He lives in a studio apartment in D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood, just across the street from his office.
At some point soon he may testify before Congress on the subject of pancreatic cancer — his uncle, Tom, died of it, and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is considering him as a face to place before a congressional committee.
He’s also busily building his own charity organization, “Got-Your-Back,” a nonprofit that donates funds to families of soldiers who have died in duty.
Baldwin opens up easily on the subjects of love, work, his father’s recent heart surgery and life.
One subject he wouldn’t discuss: politics.
“As a naval officer I am nonpartisan,” he said. “I can’t really state my political beliefs. However, I am a devout believer in our country and service. Personally, I’m pretty mixed.
“What I really do believe in is the importance of unifying our country, [bringing] the community together for one cause.”
When asked about his prospects of running for office someday, Baldwin boasts that his father, Roy Baldwin, was a two-term state representative in Pennsylvania. Of his own ambition, he says: “Right now I’m keeping my options open. I’m serving my time.”
Being “the bachelor” only helps his popularity (so name recognition wouldn’t likely be an issue). “ ‘Ahh, it’s the bachelor,’ ” he says strangers have called out on the street. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a negative comment. It puts a smile on people’s faces. People say, ‘Don’t you get sick of it?’ I say, ‘No way.’ ”
He concedes he is something of a politician-in-training.
“I think what a lot of politics is, is handling your public persona and handling the media,” he says.
His public speaking skills have never been better, and he avers a “growing ease” in his ability to get up in front of groups. “I owe a lot of that to being on television,” he says.
Like most reality TV stars, he has to contend with a certain lack of reality. For instance, the media recently reported that he will officiate at the wedding of the latest couple to emerge from “The Bachelor,” that of DeAnna Pappas and Jesse Csincsak.
While he knows the couple well, he says, they have not asked him to marry them.
Baldwin has no regrets about being on the show and says he will always “cherish” the experience. He says the show’s producers pursued him and persistently asked him to be the next bachelor. He didn’t immediately leap at the chance, but instead asked, “Why should I do this?”
He admits he didn’t know how emotional the experience would be or how off-putting it would be to have producers edit the program for the highest dramatic purposes. He says all intellectual conversations about foreign travel and art were cut.
“I was kind of a virgin going through it,” he says.
As for Baldwin’s love life, at the show’s close he had chosen Tessa Horst over Bevin Powers and dated her until past February, when she called it quits. While nursing a broken heart, he met Donald Trump’s ex-wife Marla Maples at a charity event in Los Angeles. He says she is “more of a friend than anything.”
Roy Baldwin, who showed up in Washington for his son’s poetry reading on the National Mall, called the show a “stupid idea” but said he supported it if his son could find love from it.
Unfortunately, he said, Horst is a very private person and didn’t like the media attention that came with it. “One wonders why someone would go on a show like that if they couldn’t handle the attention,” he said, clearly feeling for his son’s loss.
For the time being, the younger Baldwin says, he’s single and “not looking.” He believes love will find him when he least expects it.
Perhaps the same holds true of a budding career in politics.