It’s America’s version of the royal baby watch, but Chelsea Clinton’s announcement last week that she’s pregnant ended up taking a back seat to her mother’s political ambitions.
Within hours of the revelation, pundits, columnists and reporters pontificated on what being a grandmother will mean for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign, should she decide to run for president in 2016.
One predicted the pregnancy would “change the dynamic” in the upcoming White House race, and another declared that it has sent “ripples” through the political world.
But some analysts say Mrs. Clinton’s future grandchild and the impact on presidential politics is wildly overblown and, at best, merely reflects the media’s fascination with everything Clinton. At worst, they say it’s more proof of the “double standard” used to judge male and female political figures.
“I’m really kind of shocked people would say this is going to change everything. Why does it change anything?” said Ann Bookman, director of the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston. “I think it’s because people cannot seem to get used to the idea of a woman running for president and they really have a double standard about different things. If a man who had the kind of qualifications and credentials Hillary does all the sudden announces he’s going to be a grandfather nobody would say it’s a game changer. They only think that because she’s a woman.”
Indeed, previous presidents and White House hopefuls have been grandparents. The scrutiny paid to their family trees paled in comparison to that of the Clintons.
The most recent example is GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who had 18 grandchildren while mounting an unsuccessful White House bid in 2012.
George H.W. Bush was also a grandfather while serving as commander in chief. Other potential 2016 presidential candidates, such as Republican and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, also are grandparents.
Still, Mrs. Clinton’s future status as a grandmother is attracting far more attention than her male counterparts. Last week, she said welcoming a grandchild reaffirms the need to address pressing challenges in America today and leave future generations better off.
“It makes this work even more important because we’ve made a lot of progress Even in the course of my life, I’ve seen a lot of progress. But I want to see us keep moving, and certainly for future generations as well, so that maybe our grandchild will not have to be worried about some of the things that young women and young men worry about today,” Mrs. Clinton said at a Clinton Foundation event in New York.
She spoke just after Chelsea announced that she and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky, are expecting.
“I just hope that I will be as a good mom to my child, and hopefully children, as my mom was to me,” Chelsea Clinton said.
While some analysts say Mrs. Clinton may become a more endearing figure once she’s a grandmother, there likely will be little in the way of tangible impact on the 2016 race.
Only if Mrs. Clinton decides not to run in order to spend more time with her family will the pregnancy truly influence the political world, according to Jennifer Lawless, director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University.
“I think part of the reason this is generating this amount of attention is we’ve known for quite some time that her decision is going to come down to whether she wants to focus on her personal life or go back into politics. [The future grandchild] is obviously a factor in that personal life, but I think it’s probably being blown out of proportion,” she said.
“We’re looking for clues into what decision she’ll ultimately make and this is today’s clue,” she said. “But she’s going to be a grandmother before she makes a decision. She doesn’t have to make the decision on a hypothetical basis. The fact of the matter is no one is making any announcements on anything until after the midterm elections anyway. So I think we all need to take a deep breath.”
By Sunday morning, other political pundits had begun to shoot down the notion that a grandchild will in any way affect Mrs. Clinton’s likely presidential campaign. The former first lady has yet to formally announce a bid, though she’s already miles ahead of potential Democratic rivals in virtually all polls.
Asked Sunday whether a grandchild will make any difference to Mrs. Clinton’s political career, veteran Democratic strategic Donna Brazile said “absolutely not”
“Look, I think Chelsea and Marc will have a happy, healthy baby that will not be part of any focus group. The baby will likely call Mrs. Clinton granny at first and [eventually] madam president,” she said on ABC’s “This Week” program.