Holding babies is one of the oldest campaign-trail plays in the book. It’s so simple: Babies enjoy a universally high approval rating, which candidates hope to tap into by proxy. What could be more humanizing?
“No parent in their right mind would give their baby to a stranger,” the Daily Mail surmised in an investigation of the American political tactic, “therefore this politician must exude signals of trustworthiness, which might therefore extend to their politics.”
The practice of posing with babies goes back to at least Andrew Jackson, as Mother Jones reported in January. In 1833, the seventh president was approached by a poor woman with a child and is reported to have said, “Ah! There is a fine specimen of American childhood.” Jackson then instructed John Eaton, secretary of War, to kiss the babe (Eaton, respecting the chain of command, “pretended to do so with a wry face”). Other presidents, such as Grover Cleveland, largely refused to hold or kiss babies.
While none of the pictures below match this classic, they show a portrait of the president’s softer, more emotive side.
This is the second in our series of candidates acting candidly on the trail. For pictures of Romney expressing sheer joy, click here.