Presidential Candidates Kids Take to Twitter
“Any suggestions for Orlando hotspots? Clearly bored. Plank you and goodnight.”
That tweet and the accompanying photo of a blonde lying stiff as a board over the arms of a hotel chair — an odd new trend known as “planking” — could’ve been tweeted by any college-aged woman.
But it was actually tweeted by 2012 GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman’s daughters from their new Twitter account: @Jon2012girls.
The girls started the Twitter account July 28 and already boast 308 followers, a number that grows daily. Abby Huntsman, 25, said she and her sisters came up with the idea on their own as a way to keep friends informed.
“All our friends are like, ‘Where are you? You’re always in different places and doing interesting things!’ And we thought, ‘This is a great way to reach out to, not only our friends, but to the youth and to anybody interested in following the campaign,’” she said.
The Huntsman daughters aren’t the first political offspring to use Twitter.
Former GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s (Ariz.) daughter Meghan uses her account — @McCainBlogette — to share her opinions on things political and mundane. (“Grocery shopping is so obnoxious.”) Meghan McCain joined Twitter in 2009 and now has more than 114,000 followers. Mitt Romney’s son Tagg (@tromney) first tweeted in March 2010 and has 618 followers.
Doug Heye, former communications director for the Republican National Committee, said the involvement of candidates’ families in campaigns is nothing new, but new technology might have changed the way that they reach out to voters.
“I don’t know if it’s increasing, except that with social media — and with the explosion of media — [candidates’ kids are] more prevalent” in campaigns, he said.
Heye noted that families can help or hurt a campaign, but generally when candidates bring their family onto the trail or into campaign literature, it’s to create a certain perception.
“The second you put a brochure out there with your family and dog, you present yourself as a family-values candidate,” he said. “It can be a positive thing. It’s another surrogate, but it’s the best kind of surrogate that a candidate can have because it comes from a person that knows the candidate in a way that most don’t.”
But Twitter allows candidates’ kids to be a bit more freewheeling in the way they present themselves and their parent. Abby Huntsman said she’s not sure what role the @Jon2012girls account will play in the upcoming election, but she believes she and her sisters have a basic duty to their dad.
“I think our involvement is pretty simple. It’s just getting out there, getting people excited and getting them to know a little bit about my dad,” she said.
The Huntsman daughters plan to use the account to reach out to other young voters and keep them connected with the campaign, she said. But she also explained that the girls plan to tweet for themselves.
But Heye said because of the unpredictability of the medium, it was likely Twitter wouldn’t showcase the unadulterated thoughts of the Huntsman daughters.
“I’m sure that there is some, if not oversight, there is some mechanism to ensure that they stay on message,” he said.
Even if there is someone keeping them on message, there’s no one keeping them from tweeting pictures of the sisters planking in Orlando or scootering down the hallways of campaign headquarters in Florida. But in a race that historically conflates the personal with the political, good planking form might be their best asset yet.