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Walking the campaign trail in parents' shoes

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Even before he opens his mouth, the resemblance is clear – particularly around the eyes.

"I'm Mark Pryor. You know me as Arkansas' attorney general," says the aspiring senator, speaking evenly at the camera as a fiddle plays softly in the background. "But I'm also my father's son."

It's a line that echoes across the campaign trail this season. Mr. Pryor, son of former Arkansas Sen. David Pryor (D), is one of a number of sons and daughters attempting to follow parents into political office – often, into the very same seats.

To name just a few: In Texas, the son of retiring House majority leader Dick Armey (R) is running in his father's district. In New York and Pennsylvania, the sons of former Govs. Mario Cuomo (D) and Bob Casey (D) are competing for governorships. Even Al Gore's oldest daughter, Karenna Gore Schiff, told CNN last week that she "wouldn't rule out" a run for office.

In some ways, political dynasties are the closest this country gets to royalty – and at a time when the current president is the son of a former president, the trend seems more prominent than ever.

These candidates' advantages are obvious: a brand name, and often, an inherited political organization and a network of contributors.

But there can be disadvantages, too.

Candidates sometimes seem diminished in the shadows of famous parents – as George W. Bush discovered early in 2000, when his father campaigned for him in New Hampshire and called him "this boy, this son of ours."

In last month's Texas primary, Scott Armey didn't win enough votes to avoid today's runoff election. And Rep. Ken Bentsen (D), nephew of former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, lost his bid for the Senate.

Most of the time, being the child of a popular politician is "worth one step up the ladder," says Stephen Hess, author of "America's Political Dynasties" and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "Then you've got to make it on your own."


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