New York: US President Barack Obama has revealed that his daughters Sasha and Malia have influenced his decisions on social issues.
Obama had last week disclosed that his historic change of heart to support same-sex marriage was in part inspired by talking with his daughters — ranging from availability of birth control to the importance of killing Osama bin Laden.
According to political pundits, the frequent references to his family also connect with voters.
“Voters like a family man in a President,” the New York Daily quoted Professor Monika McDermott, Fordham University, as saying.
“There’s a strength there, but also a softness that is appealing.”
“People like hearing about his family and seeing him with his family.”
“It’s a very warming, human aspect,” McDermott said.
When Georgetown University law student Sandra Fuke was berated by right-wing radio host Rush Linbaugh for her views on birth control, Obama cited his daughters as the reason as to why he reached out to the woman at the centre of the controversy.
“I thought about Malia and Sasha and one of the things that I want them to do as they get older is to engage in issues they care about, even ones that I may not agree with them on,” Obama said.
He said his daughters do not believe their friends’ gay parents should be treated differently than heterosexual couples — and that helped change his mind on same-sex marriage.
Obama also cited the girls as the reason why he opposed the morning after pill being made available over the counter — and why he is fighting to lower student loan interest rates.
“When we should have been starting to save up for Malia’s and Sasha’s college educations, we were still paying off our educations,” Obama said this month.
The First Family is fiercely protective of their daughters’ privacy.
Malia, 13, and Sasha, 10, are both active students at the Sidwell Friends School, but White House photographers rarely capture them.
However, they are still seen and discussed far more often than other children who have recently called the White house home.
“It’s a very different dynamic,” McDermott said.
“This feels like a family presidency and less like a President who happens to have a family,” McDermott said.
And while Obama’s laudatory and sometimes amusing references to his wife and daughters clearly help him with female voters, there could be a downside, pundits warn.
“Obama opens up a slippery slope when he refers to his children when at other times says he wants them to have a private life,” Tobe Berkovitz from Boston University said.
“You can’t have it both ways. I don’t think voters want to feel that (the girls) are being used as political surrogates on campaign trail.”
“There could be a backlash,” Berkovitz added.
First Published: Monday, May 14, 2012, 17:05