Candidates' Kids Step Into Media Spotlight

Many of the adult children of the 2008 presidential candidates have become important figures in the campaigns of their parents, taking on a much more political role and stepping much further into the media spotlight than posing for the ubiquitous family photo-op.

Sarah Huckabee, 25, stars in her own YouTube video, and second-year Harvard law student Cate Edwards, 25, is a regular on the campaign speaking circuit. Meghan McCain, 23, has launched her own blog musing about politics and fashion; while former Criag Romney, one of former Gov. Mitt Romney's five sons has launched a Spanish-speaking ad for his father in Florida.

"Children who are in their 20s on a campaign are perceived to be attractive personalities who may make a candidate look younger and more appealing to younger voters," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism and a former media critic. "And campaigns exploit that."

'Chelsea Grew Up'

Press-shy Chelsea Clinton, 27, stepped out of her very private life as a hedge fund manager in New York last December to begin campaigning for her mother in Iowa in an effort to help her mother combat Sen. Barack Obama and his star-studded entourage, which includes Oprah Winfrey.

Media interest is high in the woman who, if her mother wins the presidency, will have the historic position of being first-daughter -- twice over.

Today Chelsea Clinton is visiting college students in Charleston, South Carolina -- the state with the next up Democratic primary on Saturday. The Clinton campaign has dangled the promise of media access to to the mysterious former first daughter, offering to let a television network news "pool" camera follow her around as she canvasses college students.

However, as usual, the Clinton campaign has made the ground rules known: Chelsea Clinton does not take questions from the press. She even rebuffed a 9-year-old "kid reporter" from Scholastic News in Iowa who asked her what she thought her father would be like as first spouse.

Those close to Chelsea Clinton say it's her decision to remain a safe distance from the press, reported ABC News' Kate Snow, who was allowed rare access to Chelsea last week as she campaigned for her mother in Nevada, visting college students and urging people to vote for her mother.

'Have it Both Ways'

But as she takes on an increasingly political role in her mother's presidential campaign, some wonder whether the rules that once applied to Chelsea, the White House youngster, should still apply to a woman who is almost 28-years old and who has begun to publicly engage voters on policy questions.

"The Clintons are actually trying to have it both ways by restricting access to her and by having her be a significant campaign presence," said Rosenstiel.

"Chelsea grew up; she's now injecting herself into the campaign," Rosenstiel said.

While the vast majority of media have kept a respectful distance from Chelsea, Rosenstiel argues adult children who play political roles may invite more media scrutiny.

"If they are becoming political actors, they need to be treated as such by the media," he said.

"If Chelsea Clinton does something that makes her political and helps her campaign that is more active than simply posing for a picture," he said, "then the press needs to avoid being manipulated and being simply a passive conduit for whatever images the campaign is promoting."

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