Candidates Drag Along Photo-Ready Kids

The images are inviting: 4-year-old Jack Edwards toting a mass of red, white and blue balloons off the plane as his dad joins John Kerry's (search) presidential ticket; Kerry playfully chasing Jack and his 6-year-old sister, Emma Claire, across the airport tarmac; the Kerry-Edwards team strolling a grassy expanse with seven of the families' eight combined children in tow.

Family is very much part of the package as John Edwards (search) is being introduced to the nation as Kerry's running mate, helping round out the image he tries to project as a youthful leader who's in touch with regular Americans. Now comes the challenge of striking the right balance in deciding when children should be part of the campaign and when they should be protected from it.

It's a question every parent-politician must face, dating to the hearth-and-home prints that James Garfield distributed in the 1880 campaign depicting his children in blissful domestic settings.

Eight-year-old Amy Carter (search) spent much of the summer of 1976 with her grandmothers while her dad was running for president, but the family wasn't shy about including her in campaign photos.

When she was home with her parents in Plains, Ga., Amy turned the campaign into a moneymaking enterprise, charging reporters 10 cents for a glass of lemonade, 50 cents for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a quarter an hour to rent her frisbee. She clocked journalists with a kitchen timer until Dad put a stop to her entrepreneurial ventures.

The Clintons were determined to keep 12-year-old daughter Chelsea largely offstage when her father ran for president in 1992. But she was there on the podium in July 1992 as her father and mother paid a surprise visit to Madison Square Garden when Democratic National Convention delegates nominated him for president.

President Bush's (search) twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, now 22, steered clear of politics when their father ran for president, and then settled into college while he took up residence in the White House. Recent graduates, Jenna made her first campaign outing with her father on a bus tour of Pennsylvania on Friday, and Barbara plans a campaign trip with her dad in the coming week.

Vice President Dick Cheney (search), whose two daughters are grown, took along 10-year-old granddaughter Kate on his weekend campaign bus trip, hoping to soften his stern image. Cheney's wife, Lynne, gave Kate a special introduction at campaign rallies, and she happily waved to the crowds like a pol.

At ages 4 and 6, Jack and Emma Claire are almost veterans of the campaign trail. During the early Democratic primaries, they traveled the states with their parents in an RV stocked with peanut butter, jelly and snacks. The children were summoned to their father's side during a local television interview and coached to wave out the window as the bus rolled out of an Iowa town.

Unfazed by it all, Emma Claire seemed content to watch "Dumbo" in the back of the bus with one reporter while another was interviewing her father about his presidential ambitions. In Iowa Falls, Iowa, she wandered the room and tapped her father's side as he addressed the Elks Club. "Let Daddy talk, sweetie," her father cajoled as she tiptoed up to him during his speech.

On Day One of the new Kerry-Edwards ticket, the children provided Kodak moments for newspapers across the country. Kerry couldn't resist working the children into his speeches, telling crowds that the team was announcing a new campaign manager: "Jack Edwards is taking over everything."

The Edwardses have three children: In addition to Jack and Emma Claire, they have a 22-year-old daughter Cate. They decided to have the two younger children after a teenage son, Wade, died in a car accident in 1996. Kerry has two grown daughters, Vanessa and Alexandra, from his first marriage. He has three grown stepsons from his marriage to Teresa Heinz Kerry. To varying extents, most have been working for the campaign.

At a photo session of the Edwards and Heinz-Kerry families on Wednesday, Emma Claire briefly buried her head in her mother Elizabeth's skirt. "Emma Claire's a little nervous," her dad hurried to explain.

As for Jack, Edwards says, "I think he kind of mugs for the camera sometimes."

Kids, of course, cannot be completely scripted. Jack, for example, firmly resisted when Teresa Heinz Kerry tried to tug his thumb out of his mouth at one campaign appearance.

Political scientist Charles Jones said the family scenes provide a "nice visual" for the campaign, and one that reinforces the persona that Edwards is trying to project. He cautioned, however, that politicians walk a fine line in determining how often to put their children in the public eye.

Lisa Caputo, who helped shield Chelsea from publicity when she was Hillary Rodham Clinton's press secretary in the White House, said it's "absolutely appropriate" for candidates to have their children be part of important events such as the announcement of the Democratic ticket. But, she said, "it gets dangerous when there are staged events around the kids," such as a child's first day at school.

"You just have to draw firm boundaries and lines around the children's privacy," she said.