Abby Huntsman Livingston: A Unique View From the Campaign Trail
What’s it like to interview someone who has your same name? Roll Call politics reporter Abby Livingston got to find out when she talked to Abby Huntsman Livingston, the daughter of GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, this week from the campaign trail. The two have never met but have been subjected to various mix-ups because of their shared name.
Roll Call: Where are you right now?
Abby Huntsman Livingston: I just got back to the Hilton Garden Inn [in Manchester, N.H.] for a few minutes before my husband and I are going to speak at an event. We’ve kind of lived here for the last few months.
RC: What is the vibe you’re feeling in New Hampshire on the campaign in the past week?
AHL: We’ve definitely seen a movement in the last week. We’ve been coming for months. In the beginning it was a few house parties, people trickling in and just kind of seeing what my dad is all about. And now, we had an event two nights ago, in Peterborough and it had probably 400 people there. People are really catching on. I think they’re really resonating to my dad’s message. It’s something that’s different. It’s bold and I think he represents something that people here in New Hampshire are really attracted to. So we’ve definitely seen a really healthy and steady progression forward. We’re excited seeing how the next few days play out.
RC: Before the campaign, what was your job?
AHL: I graduated, and I worked in D.C. out of the ABC bureau for a year. I worked there for a year and then I moved to New York and I was a booker for Good Morning America for a year. And then I worked after that at a PR firm, Burson-Marsteller is the name of it. Then I got married, and we moved to Beijing for a year. And we just moved back two months ago and now I’ve just been working full time for my dad on media and messaging and things like that.
RC: Were you with your dad in Beijing?
AHL: He was there for two years. My husband and I moved there just the last year he was there. We were there a little bit longer as well after he left.
RC: You’ve essentially been living in New Hampshire for the past several months, right?
AHL: We have. We’ve been here for a decent amount of time. Obviously, we’ve traveled to New York and all over the country we’ve been doing events, but New Hampshire’s been our main focus. So we’ve spent the majority of our time here.
RC: You began to get a lot of attention in October and so I was hoping to talk about your Twitter feed, which has gotten a lot of attention. First of all, does the campaign monitor your tweets before they go out?
AHL: You know, they don’t. We get asked that all the time. Twitter is a completely new trend in the media world. I think it’s the first campaign that it’s really been used like this. And so, no one really knows how to handle it, you receive information so fast. When it started, the campaign was like, “We don’t really know how to work with this.” But as they got to know how we work better, and just, we’re out there helping our dad and that is our main purpose. I think they really trusted us. It actually worked really well. They let us do what we want to do. There really haven’t been any issues in that sense.
RC: You guys have succeeded in getting your father a lot of attention. Have you seen any evidence that it’s translated electorally?
AHL: I think so. We’re representing the youth, people that aren’t necessarily that into politics. Our goal was reaching out to our friends because people were always asking, “Where are you today, tomorrow? Give us an inside look into what you’re doing. It’s so interesting.” So my sister Liddy said, “You know, why don’t we just start a Twitter account, and that way it would be a lot easier to keep everybody up to date.” And it just started connecting with people. We started with one follower and today we have over 20,000. I don’t think we expected that at all. But people are really interested in just a really honest approach to what’s going on in the political scene right now. … We’re very opinionated. We are, obviously, in it for our dad, and we love him. I think people are attracted to that honesty and the ability to see what’s going on that they don’t get to see through the media.
RC: It is a very humorous account. Humor, as many not just political children, but staffers have discovered, can be very dangerous. How have you guys managed to be funny but not in a way that’s crossed the line and hurt your father?
AHL: I think we’re in a unique position, where people know we’re not being 100 percent serious in what we do. It’s almost like an act. Underneath it all, we’re doing it because we love our dad and trying to get his message out there, but our parodies and our videos, it’s just not 100 percent serious. It’s kind of getting people to laugh in politics. We’re giving it a bit of a lighter touch. So I think that’s really helped us out because when we’re doing it, we’re not serious, either. It’s not like we’re thinking, “How can we put this person down?” … That’s not our approach when we go about it, so I think that comes across when people see our work.
RC: Have you guys reached out to adult children of candidates … like Meghan McCain or anyone like that who’s gone through this before?
AHL: Meghan’s a friend. We’ve known her for two years, and we respect what she did four years ago. She really was able to reach out to the youth, and everyone totally does their own way. We totally came up with this on our own. People always ask, “Are you the new Meghan McCain?” And it’s like, everyone does their own thing. In terms of the other kids, the Romney boys, we’ve reached out to them for fun on Twitter, but they’re a little bit older and they don’t seem to be involved this time around like four years ago. But we talk to Rick Perry’s son, Griff[in]. He’s really sweet. But you know, we’re really the only kids out there doing this much, this round, it seems like.
RC: Have you run into the Romneys on the trail at all?
AHL: Yeah, we have. They’re older. They have kids. And so, they know that it’s just fun and games, but at the end of the day, we all respect each other, and we’ll say hello and have a mature conversation whenever we run into them.
RC: How many members of your immediate family are on the ground campaigning in New Hampshire this week?
AHL: It is just the three of us, because my two brothers are in the Navy. I have one brother in the Naval Academy and the other one that’s at the Naval Academy prep school. So, they’re not really able to get involved. And then my two little sisters are just too young. They’re still in school, so we all take turns going back to D.C. to take them to school and to be home with them, but it’s really only the three older girls on the trail.
RC: How long have you been an Abby Livingston?
AHL: Only, let’s see … a year. I got married Aug. 28, so I guess a year and four months or something. Three or four months?
RC: When did you first realize there was another Abby Livingston involved in politics?
AHL: Well, my friend, who always reads Politico mentions, she’s like obsessed with it, sent this email, like, “Wow, you’re up to a lot of cool things.” Like some birthday party you probably went to at somebody’s. It has a list of people who went, and I’m like, “I don’t think this is me, but I don’t think there’s another Abby Livingston out there in politics like we are,” so I was confused. I’m like, are they just mentioning my name because … And so I wrote back, “I don’t think this is myself.”
I kept receiving things and I was confused, like, “Is this you? Is this you?” So I actually looked it up, and I was like, “Ahhh. There is another Abby Livingston who is heavily involved in politics as well.”