WASHINGTON — The new White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was nine years old when she worked her first political campaign: her father’s bid for a U.S. Senate seat in Arkansas.
Republican Mike Huckabee would lose that race to Democratic incumbent Dale Bumpers in 1992. But he’d eventually ascend to the governor’s mansion in Little Rock and run for president twice – all with his daughter right behind.
“When most kids were doing summer camp, I was doing the Arkansas festival circuit, passing out push cards, and shaking hands and tagging along with my dad to every nook and cranny in the state of Arkansas,” she recalled during an April interview on C-SPAN. “I got bit by the bug early.”
That bug bite led to a series of political assignments: in the George W. Bush administration, helping home-state Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton win their races, and working on the presidential campaigns of her father (twice), George W. Bush and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
After her father abandoned his presidential bid, Sanders joined the Trump campaign last year.
She served as the president’s deputy press secretary until she was named to replace White House press secretary Sean Spicer Friday.
Sanders is said to be a favorite of Trump’s. While pundits sensed the president wasn’t always happy with Spicer’s performance, he seems pleased with Sanders’ unapologetic defense of his policies and actions.
“As deputy press secretary, Sarah has done an outstanding job getting my Administration’s message out to the American people,” Trump said in a White House statement announcing Sanders’ appointment Friday.
Sanders' increasing appearances at the daily White House press briefings, especially during tough moments such as the week of FBI Director James Comey's firing, suggested she was being groomed for Spicer's job.
"Probably the biggest difference between Sanders and Spicer comes down to style not substance," said Callum Borchers, who writes "The Fix" column for The Washington Post. "They both deflect questions, neither one is always shooting straight but Sanders seems to be better than Spicer at keeping her cool, maintaining composure and at least giving an answer and not seeming quite so flustered."