For candidates' kids, new roles and attention

Cate Edwards says career choices made by adult children are "bound to come up" but shouldn't be used to judge candidates. Nor, she adds, should people "use candidates' children as a tool for making a point. I don't think that's fair."

At a debate in 2004, when John Edwards was the Democratic nominee for vice president, he said of Vice President Cheney and his wife that "you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they are willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her."

Mary Cheney, a lesbian, was then a high-level official in her father's re-election campaign.

Cate Edwards says her father's comment did not cross any lines. "What Dad said was very complimentary," she says.

Rollins disagrees. He says it was out of bounds because "the premise was to show an inconsistency or a hypocrisy" by the vice president on gay rights issues.

Mary Cheney was a force behind the scenes, but most adult children active in campaigns are deployed publicly to humanize their parents. Alexandra Kerry told the 2004 Democratic convention about how her father rescued her drowning hamster. A few weeks later at the GOP convention, Jenna Bush said her father "cheered for us when we scored a goal, even when it was for the wrong team."

This year, Beau and Hunter Biden are stressing their father's resilience in recovering from an automobile accident that killed their mother and baby sister in 1972, and brain aneurysms that nearly killed him in 1988. Voters, Beau Biden says, "want to know what's in your core. No one in this race has more mettle than my father."

Cate Edwards says voters can see in her the values her parents taught her, including "service and being natural." Sarah Huckabee says her presence helps answer the question "what kind of guy is this?"

Tagg Romney was deputy manager of his father's 2002 campaign for governor. His roles now include spokesman, strategist, money manager, morale booster, private adviser and family mobilizer. He says he asked 150 relatives to help at the Iowa straw poll in August — no pay or hotel rooms provided — and 96 came. His dad won easily.

"It's definitely a plus to have a strong family that's supporting you 100%," he says. "It's helpful to have the people you love most behind you."

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