'He brings a lot to this table,' Abby Huntsman tells MTV News of their dad, a Republican presidential hopeful. By Gil Kaufman, with reporting by Sway Calloway
Mary Anne, Abby and Liddy HuntsmanPhoto: MTV News
MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — Life on the campaign trail has often been compared to "Groundhog Day." Another town, another local deep-fried delicacy (or 20), another 10 stump speeches and endless rounds of hand-shaking, radio interviews and posed pictures.
But when your dad is running for president and he gives you the green light to be yourself with the press and tweet and YouTube (just about) anything you want to, well, things get a lot more interesting.
"It's been crazy. It's been so fun — a family affair," said Abby Huntsman, 25, who along with sisters Mary Anne, 26, and Liddy, 24, has been out on the road for months with former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman as he tries to break into the top tier of Republican White House aspirants. The trio have already created some of the most lighthearted, virally hilarious moments in an otherwise smash-mouth primary campaign with their YouTube send-ups of Herman Cain campaign commercials and Justin Timberlake songs, as well as a popular Twitter feed that is much looser than the usual sanitized candidate-kid offering.
"We call it a roller coaster — you never know which way the car is going to go," she said, noting that as of Monday afternoon (January 9), it felt like that direction was up, as their father's poll numbers were inching north into double digits as he made a bid for third place in the Granite State. After skipping last week's first-in-the-nation caucus in Iowa, the former Obama administration ambassador to China had pinned his hopes on a strong showing in New Hampshire.
And when it comes to young voters, Huntsman likely has the sibling trio to thank for his popularity, due to the maverick decision to loosen up the normally short leash candidate offspring are typically kept on. "We cut that leash day one," said Liddy, the unofficial wild child of the bunch. An avowed hip-hop fan and music junkie who used to hide CDs with explicit lyric stickers under her bed in seventh grade — until her dad found them and broke them in half — Liddy said reaching out to her peers using online media was the plan from the beginning.
"We think [social media] is crucially important for this election cycle, especially for our younger generation, so we've kind of run with it." For the most part, Dad's been OK with their online escapades — well, except for a few things Liddy wanted to release that Mary Anne said their candidad put the kibosh on.
Among their favorite stories is how a young Jon Huntsman dropped out of high school to join a rock band but clearly didn't succeed at that venture. "So he's running for the next best job, which is president," Liddy joked.
Music is still important to the Huntsmans. Mary Anne is a classically trained concert pianist who loves Chopin; Dad is a Ben Folds Five fan; and the ladies were blown away when they recently watched Florence and the Machine on "Saturday Night Live." Yes, they're fun and they have a blast trying to engage their peers with clever tweets and videos, but the ladies also have a job to do. So they make sure to expertly tout their dad's experience as a job-creating governor and an ambassador. "He brings a lot to this table ... he also unites this country [and believes] we should all serve our country when asked, and that comes before party — country first," Abby said.
MTV News' Sway was so impressed with their poise, in fact, he asked if any of the next-generation Huntsmans were thinking of a career in politics. "I'll save America the grief and I will stick to what I'm doing and not do politics," laughed Liddy, motioning to Abby as the likely next woman up. "No ... ask us when this is over," she demurred.
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