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Campaign role ups pressure on Chelsea Clinton to talk to media

  • Story Highlights
  • Chelsea Clinton steps up her role in her mother's campaign
  • The Clintons have always shielded their daughter from the media spotlight
  • Ex-first daughter, who soon turns 28, will campaign in Hawaii for Tuesday caucuses
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- She's faced the glare of public life since she was a girl, but Chelsea Clinton must contend with renewed press scrutiny as she increasingly assumes a role in her mother's campaign for president.

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Chelsea Clinton accompanies her mother to the polls on Super Tuesday in Chappaqua, New York.

The former first daughter always has been off-limits to the media, especially while she was growing up in the White House.

But pressure to burst this protective bubble is likely to grow as the soon-to-be 28-year-old campaigns across the country for Sen. Hillary Clinton, even heading to Hawaii -- Sen. Barack Obama's home turf.

Chelsea Clinton will spend three days there to strum up last-minute votes before the state's Tuesday caucuses, said a source from her mother's campaign.

In the rough-and-tumble world of politics, her parents always have been protective of her -- including most recently after a TV correspondent's comment that the Clinton campaign found inappropriate. Video Watch how controversy goes with the last name »

"Doesn't it seem as if Chelsea is being pimped out in some weird sort of way?" MSNBC correspondent David Shuster said this month about her reputed calls to superdelegates.

Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson excoriated Shuster and called his remarks "beneath contempt" and disgusting.

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The senator from New York even sent a damning letter to NBC and demanded "appropriate action." "I am a mom first and a candidate second, and I found the remark incredibly offensive," she said.

(Shuster was suspended indefinitely for the remark, made February 7 when he was a guest host for Tucker Carlson. MSNBC said Thursday that the suspension will end February 22.)

Even a fourth-grader apparently can't get through to the press-shy Chelsea Clinton.

Scholastic News "kid reporter" Sydney Rieckhoff was in pursuit of a story as she questioned presidential candidates last month on the campaign trail in Iowa, according to The Associated Press.

Approaching Chelsea Clinton, she reportedly asked, "Do you think your dad would be a good 'first man' in the White House?"

But Clinton wasn't talking. "I'm sorry, I don't talk to the press and that applies to you, unfortunately. Even though I think you're cute," she said, according to the AP.

During a campaign stop at the Luckie Food Lounge in Atlanta, Georgia, in mid-January, one supporter asked Clinton to reveal something that nobody else knew about her. She responded she would love to -- if all the cameras weren't around.

Clinton has proven to be an effective campaigner for her mother, according to a campaign source, saying there's a strong correlation between her visits and improved performance. At this point, the campaign has become a fight for delegates, and even narrowing a loss has a big impact, a source said.

This election cycle, Clinton campaigned for her mother in California, the first state where the senator won the youth vote. A rural congressional district in Nebraska where she campaigned reportedly outperformed others in the state.

Politicians protecting their children from the spotlight is hardly new.

The Bushes complained when daughters Jenna and Barbara became fodder for late-night comics and media outlets.

Vice President Dick Cheney also has been reticent when it comes to his daughter Mary, who had a child with her lesbian partner.

During a debate with Cheney in 2004, Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards broached the topic, saying, "I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much. And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter."

Cheney responded, "Let me simply thank the senator for the kind words he said about my family and our daughter. I appreciate that very much. ... That's it."

But the vice president later slammed Sen. John Kerry for his remarks about Mary Cheney when asked about homosexuality during a debate with President Bush. The vice president said Kerry was "out of line;" wife Lynne Cheney called him "not a good man."

These exchanges show that as Chelsea Clinton's public persona rises, so too will questions about why she doesn't make herself available to reporters.

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The Clinton campaign said Chelsea Clinton is trying to reach as many people as possible and has "appeared in dozens of venues in more than 20 states."

But she's still not granting interviews. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Trisha Henry, Frank Sesno, Rebecca Sinderbrand and Jessica Yellin contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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