Growing number of politicians using children in ads

What impact does inclusion have?


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," October 25, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Looking for votes? Why not ask the kids for some help?


CHIARA DE BLASIO: From the start of this campaign, Bill de Blasio has offered a vision for New York that leaves no one behind.

MARY PAT CHRISTIE: The Jersey Shore is open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The word is spreading.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N.J.: Because we're stronger than the storm.



CAVUTO: All right, now I'm generally of the view leave the kids out of it.

But historian Nick Ragone says that it's the politicians who are using the kids because it shows their values and it does add to their, I guess, cachet.

But I don't know, Nick. I just get tired of it.

NICK RAGONE, PARTNER, KETCHUM: I know you get tired of it, Neil, but politicians wouldn't do it unless it worked. And it does work.

If you think about it, we have very few windows into what politicians are really like. Right? We have the debates, we have a few unscripted moments, but one of the proxies that we use is the relationship the politician has to their wives, their spouses and their children.

And so I do think voters tend to look at that and say, OK, they look like me, they sound like me. He seems normal and he seems likable. And so whether you like it or not, Neil, it's here to stay.

CAVUTO: All right, well, don't you give me attitude, young man.


CAVUTO: But, no, I do see there must be something to it, because, as you astutely point out, even though you humiliate me and scare me on TV with your comments, it does work because they all use it.

But I'm wondering, I'm looking at more in the case of New Jersey Chris Christie and what he is doing. I'm looking more at de Blasio and what he is promising.

RAGONE: Right.

CAVUTO: I don't -- as much as I -- they all seem have wonderful children and all of that, just as John Kennedy when he was in office had some cute kids, I'm looking at his performance, aren't I? Shouldn't that be my focus?

RAGONE: It should be.

And you bring up a good point, which is at the gubernatorial level and mayor and local offices, candidates really have to use their families because it's one of the few ways voters can tell whether or not this is somebody that has the same values.

Now, I will say, at the presidential level, candidates are much more careful to trot out their families in ads. You see it very rarely in ads. President Clinton didn't do it. President Bush didn't do it. Now, away from ads, presidents are very smart, John F. Kennedy with John-John.

CAVUTO: Right.

RAGONE: He had the photographer come in and take pictures of him while Jackie was away, because she hated it.

CAVUTO: That's right.

RAGONE: And he got those photos out. He knew it was good for him.

President Clinton, if you remember, after Monica Lewinsky, he was seen holding Chelsea's hand while she was holding Hillary's hands as well.

CAVUTO: Right.

RAGONE: Again, not in an ad, but very strategic. So, they do it too.

CAVUTO: Yes, but in that case, poor Chelsea at the time was playing the role of Switzerland, holding both their hands as they ascend in a helicopter right after he announced to the nation he had cheated on his wife.

RAGONE: Right.

CAVUTO: But let's bygones be bygones.

Now, what I'm wondering, though, is, when the kids are little, I think it adds to the cute factor. But unless you're notoriously awful or Hitler- esque with your kids, isn't it a given that they're always going to be cute or that they're going to always -- and does that make you warmer and fuzzier?

And in times like these, do you want warm and fuzzy or -- I would get to the point I don't care if you're -- you're -- you're an argumentative dad. I want you hopping and dealing with my problems.

RAGONE: Yes. Intellectually, you're correct.

But you're forgetting that, first of all, all kids are cute, and so that does work. And secondly...


CAVUTO: You know, I got tell you, mine, it depends on the day. But I see your point. Go ahead.

RAGONE: Yes. No, I mean, kids are cute.

And I will say, seriously, though, if you look at President Clinton, for instance, even a lot of Republicans who had issues with his -- the way he handled the economy and health care still always said, he was a good dad to Chelsea. Same with Hillary, people who didn't like her.

CAVUTO: That's right.

RAGONE: Same with President Obama. You can not like his policies or ObamaCare, but you can't see that he doesn't seem like a wonderful dad and Michelle a wonderful mother.

CAVUTO: No doubt. I said that on this air. I got a lot of e-mails on that, too, that I think the president is a great -- is a great father.

And I think Rick Santorum, those who like him or dislike him, what he went through and how he put -- with especially his youngest child.

RAGONE: Absolutely.

CAVUTO: So they're great parents.

But I guess I'm still back to this view that they're obviously used in all the ads. When I want to know more like in de Blasio's case in New York running for the mayor of New York, are you seriously talking about dramatically hiking taxes in a city to me that can ill afford it? Because no matter how cute your kids are or how hip they might seem, that drives me nuts. But I'm alone, I guess.

RAGONE: Well, you're not alone but you live, Neil, in a world of ideas, and most people, most voters, symbolism replaces ideas. That's -- I hate to say this. I hate to break this to you, but our political system runs on iconic -- iconic pictures and symbolism and other proxies for values.

And while, you're right, de Blasio, his -- his issue on taxes is more important than his family, at the same time, his family gets him votes. And he knows that, and we know it.

CAVUTO: Kind of humanizes him. But sometimes it doesn't work at all. Anthony Weiner trying to humanize himself with his baby, it couldn't get people's minds off the fact this is the same dude who was sexting people. Right?

RAGONE: Well, the creepy factor on Weiner outweighed any cuteness.

But I will say, with Eliot Spitzer, the fact that his wife wasn't on the campaign trail, I think hurt him and cost him the election.

CAVUTO: Oh, that's interesting.

RAGONE: If she was out there campaigning, it would have signaled to voters, like I have forgiven him and so should you. She was conspicuously absent, and I think that did him in.

CAVUTO: Yes. I don't know. If I were ever to run for office, I would -- well, I would actually have the kids campaign for me.


RAGONE: You would trot them out.


CAVUTO: All right. Nick, thank you very, very much. All right.

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