What does it take to survive life on the campaign trail? PEOPLE talked to the Bush twins, 22-year-old Barbara and Jenna (via a joint email), and the Kerry sisters, Vanessa, 27 (in Iowa), and Alexandra, 31 (in New Hampshire), for an inside look at the final push toward Election Day.
President Bush’s Daughters: Barbara and Jenna
What was the most interesting reaction you’ve had from the public?
The funniest, most ridiculous question people ask us is if we fly on huge private planes. No! Actually, we have now become quite accustomed to the peanuts on Southwest. And we also spend a ton of time in minivans. We have actually found ourselves saying, “No, the minivan last week in Ohio was so much cooler than this one.” We are experts.
How does it feel to be out on the campaign trail?
When we decided to volunteer on the campaign, we wanted to go out and thank staff and volunteers for all of the hard work they’re doing on behalf of our parents. We figured that our parents might not get the chance to do this. … And we get to have a lot of fun with (our parents) during our downtime. Our Dad always keeps us laughing.
Mainly we were surprised at how much fun campaigning is. Traveling across America is such an amazing experience, and we have met so many interesting people. Plus, we travel with two other women who are campaign staffers, so we spend a lot of time eating, laughing and talking, which is important. We have to admit we can be a little immature and recently we have loved playing practical jokes on each other and sometimes an unassuming Secret Service agent …
Do you like to write your own talks?
While we helped developed a standard set of remarks at the beginning, we found ourselves constantly updating those remarks or ad-libbing based on new experiences.
How about your clothes? What works for you on the road?
We definitely had to update our wardrobe when we began working on the campaign trail. Our college uniform of tank tops and jeans doesn?t really cut it now that we?ve graduated. Blazers are a new staple in our closets and while we love high heels, flats definitely make all of the traveling easier. We also always bring running shoes so we can try to work out and maintain a normal schedule during so much traveling.
What personal items do you always bring along?
We always have a book – right now we are reading Anne Patchett’s Bel Canto (Jenna) and Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend (Barbara). We also are both addicted to our iPods. We also spend time recording our experiences in journals and on video camera.
Do lots of cute guys turn up to hear you speak?
We must admit that at the Michigan State University Students for Bush rally we attended, a couple of guys held up Bush-Cheney bumper stickers…with “Call me!” and their phone numbers written on the back of the bumper stickers. We both thought that was hilarious, but neither of us will have much time for dating until after Nov. 2. The main guy in our lives right now is our Dad!
Sen. John Kerry’s Daughters: Vanessa and Alexandra
What’s the trick to surviving on the road?
Vanessa: I’ve learned campaigning that the secret is never taking yourself too seriously. … There are moments that are hysterically funny. You’ll get on the plane and sit next to someone and they’ll ask, “What does your dad do?”
Alexandra: It’s a challenge to figure out where you are and where you are going. You are running to get planes and often, because you are on a one-way ticket, you get the super security. … You get completely searched every single time.
What about eating on the campaign trail? What’s the secret to staying energized?
Vanessa: Chewy Spree (candy). My favorites are red and green. I love these! I carry around almonds religiously. And I drink an obscene amount of coffee – at least four or five cups a day. It keeps me going.
Alexandra: Some days I’m lucky and there’s healthy food. Other days it’s Krispy Kremes. I can’t do as much coffee as Vanessa. I’m not the coffee girl. I do have to eat something every two hours to keep going. I carry Power Bars and nuts and things like that.
What about your wardrobes?
Vanessa: Usually I’m on the road for two weeks and I’ll just rotate my clothes. … There is usually a lot of laundry by the hotel sink.
Alexandra: I wear the clothes that I wear in my normal life.
What are your must-have items on the road?
Vanessa: I have rings from each family member and I wear them. I carry a journal that is very important to me to remember everything. I just finished reading Corelli’s Mandolin.
Alexandra: I always travel with my iPod and my camera and my telephone. I’m addicted to Blackberrying.
How do you react to criticism of your father, particularly to his mentioning the Cheneys’ daughter Mary in the debates?
Vanessa: I’m having a hard time with the attacks. I know my father’s intention was actually to celebrate the closeness of (the Cheney) family, not pass judgment. I personally feel the Republicans are exploiting this issue about Mary Cheney.
Do you give your father feedback?
Alexandra: You get a really interesting perspective from the ground (while campaigning). I process that because I don’t want to ambush my father with it. But sometimes I think something is particularly applicable or poetic or something can be of interest to him, and I’ll bring that back on the plane or talk to his advisers, but for the most part he knows what he’s doing and our part is to be supportive.
Will you spend time in the White House if your father is elected?
Vanessa: I’ll give my father a huge hug, say, “Way to go! I’ve got to go and do my thing.” I want to get my master’s (degree). On Nov. 3, I consider myself a full-time student. We were raised in a house where we were very much encouraged to pursue our own worlds, our own interests, and invest in our own lives.