Vote For My Parent! Why The Candidates' Kids Mattered In Election 2008

This election, First Kid wannabes have been in the public eye like never before. Josh Romney drove through all 99 counties of Iowa in an RV to stump for his Dad, Mitt Romney. His brother Craig used fluent Spanish to voice over a campaign ad about their "papa." Cate Edwards hit the trail diligently even though she was a busy second year Harvard Law student. Meghan McCain blogged and vlogged to connect the younger generation to her seventy-something father. And even the famously private Chelsea Clinton took a break from her hedge fund job to stump for Mom.

Americans are fascinated with the offspring of candidates for several reasons. First, nobody knows a person better than his or her kids. We listened when Chelsea got choked up over how proud she is of her Mom, or when Sarah Huckabee remembered the regular Friday morning breakfast dates she enjoyed with her Dad during high school. A heartfelt endorsement from an adult child isn't something you can buy. It's something you earn after years of loving service and commitment.

Second, this campaign turned out to be more cyber intense than even the geekiest pundit could have predicted. The twenty-something children of candidates managed to connect and engage a web-savvy generation of voters. We tuned into Romney's five sons' updates at fivebrothers.mittromney, watched videos of Sarah Huckabee bragging about her father at Youtube, tracked Chelsea's visits to college campuses, and read Meghan McCain's posts about the campaign whirlwind at mccainblogette - along with her makeup tips.

Third, the choices of adult children reflect on those who raise them, whether we like it or not. When Jenna Bush writes a book about poverty and the AIDS crisis, it takes a bit of pressure off her embattled, challenged-in-the-polls presidential father. And when he walks her down the aisle as the daddy of the bride, hearts are bound to soften even more. The flip side, of course, is that the antics of a child can - and do - hinder a parent's political career. Pressure like that made Amy Carter withdraw almost completely from the public eye, and it's no surprise that Chelsea Clinton was a bit wary as she re-entered the limelight.

Finally, we want a President who can laugh. Nothing reveals a candidate's sense of humor better than the good-natured banter that goes on between the generations. When Cate Edwards, responding to a question about her father's good looks, joked about how dorky he is, we got that John Edwards didn't take himself too seriously. Even Emma Claire teased her father at an event by slyly saying she was going to vote for another candidate. And when Matt Romney staged a call to his father from the governor of California, Americans watched the video and laughed along.

Did this yen for connection with a candidate's children hinder Rudy Giuliani, whose kids played it cool during his campaign? Did it affect those with children too young to stump, like Barack Obama? Judging from the buzz and hype surrounding the more vocal young adult First Kid wannabes, a public cheer, a notable accomplishment, and some friendly teasing from a son or daughter can give any candidate's campaign a boost.

Resource Box
Mitali Perkins, Mitali Perkins, is the author of two political novels for teens called First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover and First Daughter: White House Rules (Dutton). To learn more about the novels, visit First Daughter Books.

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