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. His brother Craig used fluent Spanish to voiceover a campaign ad about “papa.” Cate Edwards hit the trail diligently even though she was a busy second year Harvard Law student. Meghan McCain blogs and vlogs to connect the younger generation to her seventy-something father. And even the famously private Chelsea Clinton is taking 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. When Chelsea got choked up and admitted how proud she is of her mother, we believed her. 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 is turning out to be more cyber intense than even the geekiest pundit could have predicted. The twenty-something children of candidates have managed to connect and engage a web-savvy generation of voters. We tuned into Romney’s five sons’ updates, 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 -- along with her makeup tips.
Third, 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? Will 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 -- or some friendly teasing -- from a son or daughter can give any candidate’s campaign a boost.
Mitali Perkins (mitaliperkins.com) is the author of two novels for teens about a candidate’s daughter, First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover and First Daughter: White House Rules (Dutton). Her main character, Sameera Righton, described by Publishers Weekly as “an intelligent, witty and prepossessed heroine,” is keeping track of the hype around the REAL First Kid wannabes at www.sparrowblog.com. To learn more about the books, visit firstdaughterbooks.com.