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The Trump children are no longer apolitical, for better or worse

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(NBC) -

Until fairly recently, Donald Trump's adult children hadn't staked out a lot of political turf.

They had been credited with humanizing their polarizing father, serving as fresh faces for their father's sprawling business empire.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the RNC in Cleveland.

Reports began to surface about the Trump kids playing a much more active role in their father's vice-presidential selection process — including an alleged phone call from Donald Trump Jr. to John Kasich's camp, offering the Ohio governor the gig. Prior to that, they were allegedly the catalyst behind the firing of Trump's controversial campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Meanwhile, a convention speaking slate largely bereft of big name politicos forced the Trump spawn into the spotlight even more — with their speeches spread out over the four evenings instead of the more traditional single night devoted to the family of the candidate.

Ivanka Trump takes her turn on center stage Thursday night when she introduces her father in prime time.

Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., in particular, seized their prime-time moments on the national stage, giving far more than just a glowing tribute to their father's parenting and leadership skills. They both delivered unmistakably partisan speeches — which not only breaks with tradition (as much of this convention already has) but has also generated buzz about their own future political aspirations.

After Donald Trump Jr's well-received, F.H. Buckley-inspired speech on Tuesday — during which he railed against the American public school system, government regulations and the Obama administration's immigration policy — he was hailed by the right-leaning New York Post for delivering "the speech his dad never could."

"Poised and focused, with a compressed energy that did not require him to yell (as so many others have been doing), Donald Jr. established the connections between the themes of the Trump campaign that the candidate himself has found it extremely difficult to do," wrote conservative columnist John Podhoretz. "And, unlike his father, he proved himself both understanding and supportive of explicitly conservative policy ideas."

Not to be outdone, Eric Trump's speech also took a similarly strident tone. Amid lavish praise for his father's business acumen and common touch, he aimed to take down the president's Iran nuclear deal and lamented that the word "Christmas" has been "stripped from public use."

Despite the fact that neither Trump has any political experience or established domestic or foreign policy expertise — both cut their professional teeth working in their father's company — there is already chatter that they are laying the foundation for a political dynasty on par with the Kennedys and the Bushes.

This is a far cry from the unflattering headlines the Trump sons generated in 2012, when they were widely criticized for posing for (in some cases, graphic) pictureswith dead animals they killed following a safari hunting trip. Even their infamously unapologetic father said at the time, "I am not a believer in hunting and I'm surprised they like it."

And it's also a relatively rapid ideological turnaround — on par with their father's. While Donald Trump Jr. reportedly doesn't have much of a record of political fundraising, Eric Trump and elder sister Ivanka Trump, do. Their contributions have largely gone to Democratic candidates.

According to The Blaze, Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner have given thousands to perpetual thorns in the sides of conservatives: Sen. Harry Reid, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Cory Booker, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and, yes, Hillary Clinton, just to name a few. Ivanka Trump has also donated to Republicans — including a frequent foe of her father, Mitt Romney — but the sums pale in comparison.

Meanwhile, Eric Trump has spread his wealth between the likes of Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Still, conservatives may be willing to forget the kids' past transgressions, if the party's embrace of their father is any indication.

But with their decidedly more pronounced and influential roles in the Trump campaign comes great responsibility and big risks. In other words, gaffes likefailing to register in time to vote for their own father in the New York GOP primary will likely get even more scrutiny now that there's a presumption that this generation of Trumps is being groomed for higher office someday.

What's more, by choosing to pepper their RNC addresses with partisan red meat as opposed to the kind of purely genteel anecdotes about their father that we've seen in the past from the children of candidates, they will no longer be seen as off limits by their political rivals.

In April, while attending President Obama's final White House correspondents' dinner, Eric Trump suggested that this treatment would be par for the course. "Our lives are fair game, they've already made them fair game," he told MSNBCon the red carpet. "I think that's the reality of running for commander-in-chief of the United States. It's just part of the game."

"It's unfortunate, but I think it's inevitably going to happen," he added. Ironically, in the same interview, when asked about his father's accusation days earlier that Hillary Clinton had been playing the "woman card" on the campaign trail, he said: "I don't get into social issues."

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