How candidates kissing babies became a major part of US political campaigns – Business Insider
For years, presidential candidates have sought to project a kind, nurturing image by posing for pictures kissing babies on campaigns.
The first incident of a president using a baby as a political prop can be traced back to Democrat Andrew Jackson in 1833, according to a magazine report.
“Ah! There is a fine specimen of American childhood. I think, madam, your boy will make a fine man some day,” Jackson declared on being presented with a child by a supporter, but he delegated the responsibility of kissing the infant to his secretary of war.
During a tour of the eastern states, Jackson — a pioneer of populist electioneering stunts — was approached by a woman carrying a baby, the magazine recounts.
The woman told Jackson that she wished to see the president, so he removed his hat and introduced himself.
The woman then handed the grubby-faced infant to Jackson, who held up the child.
“Ah! There is a fine specimen of American childhood. I think, madam, your boy will make a fine man some day,” Jackson declared.
But when it came to the task of kissing the infant, Jackson delegated the job to his Secretary of War, John Eaton.
“Eaton, kiss him?” commanded the president, which Eaton, with a comical and wry expression, did — to the amusement of onlookers.
It was with Jackson’s successor, Martin van Buren, that the tradition really took off — and soon prospective leaders were clamoring to be seen with infants.
“History fails to record the name of the politician who first adopted the above method of gaining the favor of mothers. Henry Clay, Tom Corwin, and Van Buren did a good deal in that line; and I believe it was Davy Crockett who boasted that he had kissed every baby in his district,” the magazine Babyhood reported in 1886.
But not all presidents have taken to the tradition, seeing the practice as a cheap stunt. Richard Nixon told Life Magazine in 1968 where he drew the line when it came to electioneering.
“I won’t wear a silly hat, or kiss a lady or a baby,” he said, claiming that he feared such stunts would make him “look like a jerk.”