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Children of U.S. presidential candidates have proven influential in race for White House

For three campaigns, children have played a pivotal and public role in helping promote their parents

By
Eric DuVall
From left, Tiffany Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Melania Trump, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump stand on stage at an NBC Town Hall on the Today show earlier this month. Trump's children have proven to be effective behind-the-scenes power brokers in their father's campaign. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
From left, Tiffany Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Melania Trump, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump stand on stage at an NBC Town Hall on the Today show earlier this month. Trump's children have proven to be effective behind-the-scenes power brokers in their father's campaign. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, April 28 (UPI) -- Just like it can be a little tough to conjure up contempt for a co-worker when their children are in the office, the same can be said for American presidential candidates.

Children, young or grown up, tend to soften their parents' image. And in a profession like politics, where too often image is everything, that means every day can be take your kids to work day. That's why on the presidential campaign trail, for several candidates, sometimes their offspring are seen as frequently as their parents.

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For three of the remaining candidates, children have played an important role -- not just for photo ops, but as key messengers and behind-the-scenes power players.

In honor of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day on Thursday, here is a look at how the children of three presidential candidates have influenced the race.

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The Clintons

As a political brand, few rival the family Clinton. William Jefferson was the nation's 42nd president and the former Hillary Rodham was his first lady, a junior senator from New York and U.S. secretary of state.

So what of their only child, Chelsea? America has seen her since she was a young girl in the White House. Now she is a married mother of one, with her second child on the way. Chelsea Clinton has also served as a television reporter for NBC News and plays an active role in helping run the family's other major endeavor, the Clinton Foundation.

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Too young to speak publicly in behalf of her father during his 1992 and 1996 campaigns, the now-adult Chelsea Clinton has played a prominent public role in each of her mother's presidential campaigns.

In Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign, Chelsea was active on the trail, often introducing her mother at events and helping to underscore her appeal to women voters.

Since that last campaign, Chelsea earned her doctorate at Oxford University. In 2010, she married Marc Mezvinsky and the couple had their first child a short time later. She is now pregnant with their second child, due later this year.

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In the 2008 race, Chelsea Clinton was primarily an emissary to younger voters. She frequented college campuses and was perhaps the campaign's best messenger to a demographic heavily predisposed to prefer her mother's opponent, then-Sen. Barack Obama. She famously introduced her mother before a prime-time speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention that year.

This year, Chelsea has served as the campaign's top surrogate, speaking to women's groups and helping underscore her mother's potential appeal as the nation's first female president. Further, Hillary Clinton speaks glowingly on the campaign trail about the joy of being a grandmother -- and that genuine affection underscores her policy positions on improving children's health care and education.

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The Trumps

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Republican front-runner Donald Trump is frequently seen alongside three of his grown children -- sons Donald, Jr., and Eric, and daughter Ivanka.

Of the three, Ivanka has proven the most public surrogate, though all of Trump's children have played a key behind-the-scenes role in their father's campaign.

Ivanka, who was a television presence with her father on his reality shows The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice, has frequently spoken on her father's behalf during the campaign. She married in 2009 and recently gave birth to the couple's third child.

Interestingly, Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump count one another as personal friends and the two couples socialize together regularly -- at least before their more-famous parents became the front-runners for their respective parties' presidential nominations.

Asked in October by Politico to describe her feelings about her father's candidacy, Ivanka Trump said it was "complicated."

"I'm incredibly proud of him, it's an incredibly difficult thing to do," she said. "As a citizen, I love what he's doing. As a daughter, it's obviously more complicated."

She and her two brothers each hold the title of vice president at Trump Enterprises and work together out of Trump Tower in Manhattan when they are not on the campaign trail.

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And the three have played important roles in the campaign, especially early on.

When voting began after Iowa, reports surfaced that Trump's three children would regularly serve as conduits for back-channel campaign strategies. Frequently, staff members would reportedly take important information to one of Trump's children out of fear the campaign's top leaders, like controversial manager Corey Lewandowski, might cast it aside.

The Cruzes

Unlike Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, whose children are adults, Ted Cruz and his wife, Heidi, have hit the campaign trail with their two young daughters, Caroline, 8, and Catherine, 5.

No matter how you feel about their father's politics, the two young girls are unarguably adorable and have been a part of the Cruz campaign's public message from the beginning.

Caroline has proven precocious on several occasions. During a recent town hall event broadcast on CNN, she teased her father several times and in a video that went viral online, and famously refused to give her father a kiss in view of television cameras.

Young children as a public part of the campaign can be tricky business, however.

Heidi Cruz spoke movingly during the town hall about the couple's debate over how -- or even whether -- the girls should receive public exposure. Ultimately, Heidi Cruz decided that the positives of trying to improve people's lives was worth the disruption of normal domestic life for the family.

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"I think you do have to consider a lot of things," she said. "But any time you are doing something that's so much greater than yourself, it's incredibly humbling. And so we worked hard as a family to think about what this would mean. And we've been really blessed to have our girls with us on the road."

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Some of that behind-the-scenes debate did make its way into the public realm. Video posted to a Cruz-affiliated account on YouTube showed unedited footage of family interviews and interactions. How the footage, which included outtakes that at times proved awkward, became public isn't clear.

The Kasich and Sanders families

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has certainly showed off his children, twin teenage daughters Emma and Reese, as well. Earlier this year, they talked to CNN about their father and life on the campaign trail.

"I think it's a fun experience," Emma said before the next sentence was delivered by Reese. "We spoke at the last town hall meeting."

Sanders has four children -- son Levi and stepchildren Dave, Carina and Heather -- and seven grandchildren, with whom he went trick-or-treating with last Halloween. His campaign released a video last fall of the Vermont senator playing baseball with his young grandson.

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