For a lieutenant governor, Jane Swift is a case study in political superlatives.
When Gov. Paul Cellucci steps down to become President Bush's ambassador to Canada, Swift will become the first female governor of Massachusetts, the youngest governor in the nation and the first governor ever to give birth in office — to twins, no less.
For a lieutenant governor, Swift attracts an awful lot of attention — which, she says, you get used to. While Swift is about to become governor and have twins, she would clearly rather talk policy than pregnancy.
On a recent visit to Shrewsbury High School, one student asked Swift how she plans on juggling being a new mom and governor simultaneously. Swift noted that all the cameras quickly switched and focused on her, "Now you see what they're really interested in. It's not educational policy."
Swift has provoked a raging debate in Massachusetts. Can this 36-year-old lieutenant governor handle both new twins and the corner office?
Not to mention a killer commute. Massachusetts does not have a governor's mansion, and Swift lives about as far from the Statehouse as you can possibly get — in Williamstown, which is a 2 ½-hour drive each way.
'Ready for the Challenge'
"I don't underestimate the difficulty, but I am ready for the challenge," says Swift. "And I'm incredibly lucky to have a support system in place — my family and my husband — who will allow me to have two very, very important jobs."
Swift says her husband, who is a stay-at-home dad, will handle much of the child care. And right after the birth, she will run the state by fax and modem, from her bed if necessary. But many here are skeptical — especially given Swift's troubled record of balancing politics and parenting.
She gave birth to her first child, a girl, shortly after becoming lieutenant governor. Then came stories that she had staffers baby-sit in the Statehouse and once used a state police helicopter to go home when the baby was sick. Her current popularity rating is only 17 percent.
"She's going to go from basically a no-show job with one little baby to running the commonwealth of Massachusetts," comments radio host Marjorie Eagan. "I think it's gonna be hell."
Balancing babies and careers is an issue for so many women. More than 50 percent of women with children under 1 year old are in the labor force.
A Double Standard?
And working moms such as Swift are often victims of a double standard.
For example, Michigan Gov. John Engler had triplets in 1994. No one asked who would look after them.
"It was just expected that Mrs. Engler was going to do that very, very well and be very capable and make sure that the children were well cared for," says Elizabeth Sherman of the University of Massachusetts Center for Women and Politics, "and that he would not miss a beat as governor."
Swift has studiously avoided public complaints.
In response to the question of whether the voters treat her fairly, Swift answers, laughing, "You know what? I don't think folks who want 100 percent fairness should go into politics."
The odds may be long, but behind the infectious giggle lies an admitted street fighter instinct. Don't rule out a postnatal political comeback.