ALBANY — Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton have taken on the task of making personal cases for their parents, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, trying to persuade disillusioned and undecided voters in each party to back their candidates.
Chelsea Clinton will address the Democratic National Convention Thursday night.
Ivanka Trump took the stage last week at the Republican National Convention as a confident 34-year-old executive and mother of three. She tried to counter a perception by her father’s critics inside and outside the GOP that he is a bigot and too dangerous to allow into the Oval Office. She portrayed the swaggering billionaire developer as a loving dad.
“If it’s possible to be famous and not really well known, that describes my father,” she said in her prime time address. She told personal stories to combat the worst accusations against his father, trying to assure voters “he is color blind and gender neutral.”
She also spoke of her father’s habit — “over the years in too many times to count” — of scouring newspapers for articles about some hardship or tragedy, She said he then used his black felt tip pen to write encouraging notes and send them to the people, inviting them to visit at his Trump Tower office. They would often leave with cash or a job “and a feeling that life could be great again,” she said.
She also tried to bridge her father and his generation to younger voters.
“Like many of my fellow millennials, I don’t see myself as categorically Republican or Democrat,” she said in a rare statement at a convention filled with party faithful.
“There was a very good feeling coming out of Ivanka’s speech,” said William F.B. O’Reilly, a Republican campaign consultant and commentator. “It’s what you hear about Trump now: ‘You might have a tough time with him, but he has such wonderful children . . . he must have done something right.”
On Thursday night, Chelsea Clinton, a 36-year-old mother and executive, will try to connect with millenial voters and counter a perception by her mother’s critics inside and outside the Democratic Party that Hillary Clinton is too untrustworthy to allow into the Oval Office.
“I thought Ivanka Trump’s speech delivered both a personal and a political message,” said Meena Bose, political science professor at Hofstra University and director of the Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency. “That’s what many said was needed, that side of Donald Trump had to be represented.”
“Chelsea Clinton has a very different role,” she said, “because people know Hillary Clinton so well. She has been on the national stage for 25 years, in the public eye constantly, so I think Chelsea’s task is really to, in some ways, bring home the message that her mother is the presidential candidate for our time, that she understands what young Americans, recent college grads, need to pursue the American dream.”
Last week, Chelsea released family photos of she and her mother with a commentary to the online site Pop Sugar aimed at young women and girls.
“My mom has been my hero for my whole life,” Chelsea stated. “I remember watching how hard she worked when I was growing up and thinking she could do anything. She’s still working hard and she’s not done yet.”
Chelsea’s speech on Thursday “has to be sincere,” said Kerry Haynie, a political scientist at Duke University. “It has to be heart-felt, and deal with the real perceptions and provide a counter-narrative,” Haynie said. “I think it’s important to point out some of the suffering that the family has gone through because of the allegations, because there has to be, we’re all human.”
Hillary Clinton has faced unrelenting insults, political and editorial attacks, biting editorial cartoons and nasty TV parodies during a career that included a lawyer fighting for children in poverty, first lady of Arkansas and the nation, U.S. senator from New York and secretary of state. Trump calls her “crooked Hillary” and “lyin’ Hillary” for using a private email server to handle confidential information as secretary of state and taking actions that benefitted countries that later contributed to the Clinton family foundation. At the Republican National Convention, the chant, “Lock her up!” resounded for days in the Quicken Loans Arena, and some Sanders’ supporters resurrected it in the Democratic convention. Clinton admitted that chant gets to her.
“It really is an uphill battle to change that perception,” Haynie said. “And it’s not just perception. There are things that have happened over the years that would give someone pause about her judgment … there are legitimate reasons for concerns. But if people look below the surface, much of this (criticism) is related to politics.”