Presidential Campaign: Big GOP Families Lining Up to Fill White House

Larger-than-average families might top the GOP presidential ticket in 2012.

ByABC News
June 20, 2011, 6:49 PM

June 21, 2011 -- In presidential elections, family matters, and the 2012 GOP candidates have some of the largest in history.

Taken together, the nine announced Republican candidates have a combined 37 children. That's an average of 4.1 children each, more than double the national average.

"Kids have always been part of the scene at the White House," ABC News commentator Cokie Roberts said.

"The biggest family in the White House was Teddy Roosevelt's family and they were totally wild. They had animals and craziness. Not just dogs and cats, but flying squirrels and a donkey in the house."

Roosevelt had six children ranging from 4 to 17 when he took office in 1901.

"That's why Roosevelt built the West Wing and the Oval Office next to the main White House – he needed some peace and quiet to get work done," said ABC White House correspondent Ann Compton.

Two 2012 presidential candidates, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, each have seven.

If Huntsman, who officially launched is presidential campaign today, were to take the White House, he would bring with him his two youngest daughters, Gracie Mei, 12, and Asha Bharati, 5. The Huntsmans adopted Gracie Mei from China and Asha Bharati from India, which he mentioned in a video released by his campaign Friday.

Santorum would fill the White House with five children younger than 18.

There have been only two presidents with more than four children since World War I: Franklin D. Roosevelt and George H.W. Bush each had six but were all grown when their dads took office. FDR's youngest child, John, was 17 when he was elected and Bush Sr.'s youngest child, Dorothy, was 30 when her dad moved into 1600 Pennsylvania.

Compton said there would be plenty of space for whomever was elected, no matter how large his or her family.

"They have plenty of bedrooms, not just on the second floor but on the third floor where [President Obama's] mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, lives. They have lots of bedrooms," Compton said.

When Bush Sr. was elected, his six children, plus their wives and their children, all came and stayed in the White House on occasion, she said.

Rep Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., has five children from 10 to 22, which she happily pointed out in her opening statement at last week's New Hampshire debate. "I've had five children and we are the proud foster parents of 23 great children," she said.

Roberts said, "The White House would be a great place to foster children. Think of it, she could have 100."

Most of the candidates, with the exception of Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, mentioned how many children they have in their opening statements at the debate. Paul did note, though, that he "delivered babies for a living and delivered 4,000 babies."

Darrell West, vice president of governance studies at the nonprofit Brookings Institution, said, "Generally, candidates use their children to humanize themselves and so involving family members can be an asset because it shows a less formal side of the personality."

Both Romney's and Gingrich's children, all of whom are older than 30, will likely play a large role in their campaigns.

"Older children can go out and do campaign appearances, young children look cute, so each can help in different sorts of ways," West said.