Jenna "would just as soon be another Joe Blow," says Ransome Foose, 23, a friend from Dallas who shared a Florida beach house with Jenna and their Texas friends during spring break this year. "She doesn't want to bring attention to herself. If a stranger says, `Oh, you look like Jenna Bush, anybody ever told you that?' She'll say, `Oh I know her, I've met her, they've told me I look like her.'"
But, in fact, these daughters have never been anonymous.
When they were born, their grandfather was vice president; by second grade, they were retrieving presidential autographs from "Gampy" for their Dallas friends. Long before their father got to the White House, they left their mark - small handprints that then President George H.W. Bush let them impress in concrete in a children's garden there.
A final chance
After the election, Jenna may teach at a New York charter school while Barbara works with an overseas pediatric AIDS program. But, as Jenna told Vogue, the two don't want to miss their father's last campaign.
The first lady recently told reporters: "They were the ones who came to us and said, `You know, we don't want to tell our children later in life that we never worked on a single one of our father's campaigns.'"
So far, the twins have visited privately with state campaign volunteers and attended their father's stump speeches, occasionally serving as comic relief when he teases them for managing to graduate in four years.
But to hear a Bush daughter speak often requires a political donation.
Jenna made her speaking debut last month at a $500-a-plate fund-raiser in Birmingham, Ala., where she stood atop high heels in a country club ballroom, confessed her nerves, said "oops" once and introduced her mom.
Republicans were thrilled.
"You could tell she was very nervous, which made it even better for the crowd," recalls Linda Maynor, a state GOP official at the lunch. "Jenna turned to her mother at one point and said, `I told you I wasn't going to be good at this.' But she endeared everybody to her."
When seated at a table of young people afterward, Jenna gabbed like a college chum.
"Some of the girls were asking about girly-type things - being real blondes and make-up and fashion and stuff like that," recalls Michael Davis, a Birmingham lobbyist who sat next to Jenna and noted that she was "just normal and real."
The attention is double-edged. While audiences may be moved by a loyal child weeping at the sight of her father - as Barbara did in her first campaign stop last month as the president took the stage in Michigan - a photo of Jenna sticking her tongue out at reporters shot around the globe.
Friends of the twins say the daughters don't fixate on negative press. After Bush was declared the winner of the 2000 race, Dallas pal Foose recalls a holiday party at the Texas governor's mansion where the daughters said nothing about the election dispute.
"I was with them for five days; they didn't say a word about it," he says, adding that they were more excited about their dirty Santa gift swapping party. "They just said, `Can you believe Dad won?' Then we had our dirty Santa party, hung out with friends, went to some Christmas balls, and that was it."
The twins were the subject of public fascination from the start, but when they were cited for underage drinking at a Texas bar three years ago, their wild-child reputation took off. A Web site, thefirsttwins.com, contemplates every story: There's Barbara dancing with an Ecuadorian socialite. There's Jenna falling down, cigarette in hand.
And the interest can turn political. At a Nashville, Tenn., campaign event, the first lady was asked if her daughters would ever join the military - her answer was a polite no, but it was a loaded question, given the war in Iraq.
Campaign observers believe the power of the daughters rests in the pictures they present, not in their political pronouncements: "All [Bush] has to do is point at his daughters and have the camera catch a tear in his eye," says Doug Wead, author of All the Presidents' Children. "That's all he needs to soften the cowboy-warrior image."
Now that almost all the campaign kids have gone public, some folks are anticipating a sibling rivalry: Bush versus Kerry.
The New York Sun ran a piece asking bachelors which daughter they'd like to date (the Bush and Kerry brunettes won), and Women's Wear Daily anointed Barbara Bush the most stylish of the four.
But no matter how scrutinized the children may be, friends say the admiration they show on the trail is real.
If someone asked Jenna Bush to fawn over her father on cue, friends say, it would probably flop. "I can't see Jenna going along with that," says pal Baxter. "I think she'd just laugh."
Sun staff writer Julie Hirschfeld Davis contributed to this article.