Wives in ads, kids on the bus as GOP voting nears

By HOLLY RAMER | December 25, 2011 | 5:07 AM EST

Republican presidential candidate, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney and his wife Ann eat burritos at Dos Amigos Burritos while campaigning in Concord, N.H. Friday, Dec. 23, 2011. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Relatives of the Republican presidential candidates are doing far more handshaking and smiling from the sidelines as voting nears.

The wives of Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry are starring in new TV ads for their husbands.

Meanwhile, candidate kids, including those born to Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul, are acting as surrogates, strategists and, in some cases, sounding boards as they work to help their parents win the GOP presidential nomination.

Such involvement can be a huge asset to the presidential hopefuls, typically in highlighting a politician's softer side.

But the relatives are hardly polished public speakers who agree with everything their loved one says or does, and their slip-ups, potential conflicts and backgrounds can have consequences for the candidates.