Pop in Politics contributor Judy Kurtz is the “In the Know” columnist for The Hill
Despite their eagerness to tell you differently, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump do have something in common.
Both presidential candidates have a daughter who’s currently pregnant. So while the road to the White House isn’t exactly marked with diaper changes and late-night feedings for the front-runners, should we be expecting more stories about babysitting and family values on the campaign trail?
Political experts say the pregnancies of Chelsea Clinton, who revealed last month that she’s expecting her second child with husband Marc Mezvinsky this summer, and Ivanka Trump, whose third child with Jared Kushner is due in the spring, could indeed influence their respective parents’ campaigns—and very well be a boon for Clinton and Trump as the primaries get underway.
Check out all these celebrity grandparents
“For Hillary, her big challenge has been to seem like somebody of the people, to seem approachable, to seem like a normal person, frankly,” says Jay Newton-Small, Time magazine’s Washington correspondent.
Newton-Small, author of the just-released book Broad Influence: How Women are Changing the way America Works, notes that the former secretary of State has “been in the spotlight and had Secret Service protection for more than 20 years,” so “having her granddaughter around, talking about her daughter being pregnant and being a grandmother, that certainly makes her approachable, makes her relatable to a lot of women. So that can be quite helpful to her.”
Clinton, 68, has frequently mentioned her role as grandma to Charlotte, who will turn 2 in September. When asked in a recent interview with Lifetime’s Amanda de Cadenet to dish on date nights with husband Bill Clinton, the long-assumed Democratic front-runner admitted, “Now, a lot of our time is spent with our granddaughter.” She added, “So even when we’ve got time together, it may not be to go out so much as to go into New York or stop in New York and see Charlotte.”
Sounds like your average Nana and Pops, right?
“In the case of Hillary Clinton, she’s highlighted the fact that she’s a grandmother in a way so that people who might not think that she’s particularly relatable can relate to her,” says American University professor of government Jennifer Lawless.
But, adds Newton-Small, there could be a downside for Clinton in emphasizing her potential role as grandma-in-chief: the age factor. “You think of grandmothers, you think of little old biddies—you don’t think of presidents,” says the author.
“Donald Trump himself hit her for being older, [saying,] ‘Is she capable of doing the job? Is she too old to do the job?’ Because she’s a grandmother.”
Celebs who’ve endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in 2016
Trump, who is himself 69 and about to become a grandfather of eight when Ivanka welcomes baby No. 3, told Fox News in December that Clinton “does not have the strength or stamina” to handle the daily grind of the presidency.
“Ironically, you think of presidents and you think they could be grandfathers. So it’s incredibly sexist and very much a double standard,” observes Newton-Small. “And it’s especially a double standard because Donald Trump himself is a year older than Hillary.”
The GOP candidate and former Celebrity Apprentice host, political pros say, may also be able to benefit from the timing of 34-year-old daughter Ivanka’s pregnancy.
“For Trump,” says Newton-Small, “having a daughter who’s pregnant, it really folds into the idea of him as a family man, him as a grandfather, him as also a relatable, normal person—for a guy who’s a billionaire.”
Lawless, who co-wrote the 2010 book It Still Takes a Candidate: Why Women Don’t Run for Office, says the Republican real estate mogul and father of five is quicker to emphasize other credentials before reminding voters of his gig as a grandfather.
“It doesn’t seem like his family is something that [Trump] spends his time talking about on the campaign trail, and in part, that’s because there’s a very crowded field and he needs to find a way to differentiate himself from the other candidates on policy,” Lawless explains. “For Trump, I think it’s probably not going to be relevant at all.”
Stars’ powerful words on feminism
During the most recent GOP primary debate, Trump did talk about the prospect some of his kids running his company in his stead should he be elected president, but usually he does keep his four adult children and 9-year-old son Barron out of the conversation.
But Newton-Small says shining a spotlight on their growing families could prove beneficial for the presidential contenders. “It’s super endearing,” she says. “There’s nothing sort of more touching than the cycle of life and the passing of the torch from generation to generation. Voters love it and there’s every reason in the world for the campaigns to play that up.”
Is it possible, then, that a serendipitously timed pregnancy could actually be a calculated move to attract votes?
“I’m pretty cynical, and I just think that—no,” Lawless concluded.
“I’ve seen it on Scandal,” Newton-Small says with a laugh. “I’m not naïve, but it’s hard to imagine people doing that these days.”
She paused for a moment, though, to consider the possibility, adding, “People love kids. People love the idea of having kids. The pregnant wife is very endearing, so it could easily be used as a political tool.”
All the 2016 presidential candidates