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Presidential Candidates' Children Hit Campaign Trail with Hopes of Appealling to Younger Voters - 2004-08-14


Recent presidential candidates have tried to keep their children out of the public eye, but this race is different, the children are front and center. With less than ninety days until the November presidential election - both candidates are trying to appeal to as many voters as possible and they think their daughters can help.

President Bush's and Senator Kerry's daughters seem as if they are everywhere these days. Barbara and Jenna Bush were in the August issue of Vogue magazine, their first interview, while, Alexandra and Vanessa Kerry addressed the Democratic National Convention in Boston last month. Vanessa Kerry has taken time off from medical school, and has been with her father since his first primary in Iowa.

"Welcome my father, Senator John Kerry," Vanessa Kerry said.

The Bush twins stayed out of the 2000 election altogether, but they wanted to join their father this time around. Jenna Bush told Vogue she thought she would regret it if she were not involved in her father's campaign in 2004.

"Today I am fortunate that one of our college graduates, one of our daughters is traveling with me. I'm really proud to introduce Barbara Bush," president Bush said.

The author of All the President's Children, Doug Wead, says typically, sons and daughters of candidates do not have an impact on elections.

"The conventional wisdom is these kids aren't going to make any difference, but in a close race everything matters," he said.

Mr. Wead, who worked in the first Bush administration, says children can humanize candidates, and help voters see them as husbands and fathers, not just Republicans or Democrats. Alexandra Kerry, an aspiring filmmaker, was able to connect with voters when she talked about how her father saved the family hamster.

"My dad jumped in, grabbed an oar fished the cage from the water, hunched over the soggy hamster and began to administer CPR," she joked.

All the public attention can make it difficult for the daughters to maintain a private life. Three years ago the Bush twins made headlines for underage drinking offenses, and people are still talking about it today. The publicity can be a little much as Jenna Bush demonstrated last month, when she stuck her tongue out at photographers. But, Mr. Wead says their notoriety is only going to increase.

"The last 30 days of the campaign, the children become like rockstars," he said. "I traveled with George W. and saw this at work, at that point the political activists they don't want their picture taken with their local governor or Senator. Paul Newman can be standing in the corner they don't want his autograph. They just want to touch the kid or the candidate."

The Kerry daughters are taking full advantage of their new found popularity, acting as surrogates for their father's campaign.

"We're really trying to be as focused as we can, by talking about health care for all Americans, education starting at a young age, making this country stronger," Vanessa Kerry said.

"The ultimate is for the child of candidate to draw the public into the message," explained author Wead, "that's the hope and that's what they want. And the Kerry girls are doing that. They're older and they're doing that."

Mr. Wead says it is difficult to calculate what if any difference the daughters will actually make in the election. But, he says one thing is true, the campaign will have a profound impact on their lives.

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