First lady Melania Trump has decided not to hit the campaign trail alongside her husband, President Donald Trump, as he spends the last days before Tuesday’s midterm elections crisscrossing the country.
It’s not unusual that this particular first lady has opted out of rallies and appearances with candidates and incumbents – she was not a regular presence during campaign events during the presidential campaign either. But it is worth noting that other Trump family members and Cabinet officials are acting as surrogates for the President as heated election battles are waged across the country.
“Due to her schedule as a mother and as first lady, especially with the upcoming holidays and international travel, there are no plans for her to campaign,” Trump’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told CNN.
The first lady is scheduled to join the President when he travels to Paris on November 11.
Ivanka Trump spent Thursday in Nevada, barnstorming for Sen. Dean Heller; on Friday, she is in Iowa to campaign for Gov. Kim Reynolds. Earlier this week, Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, former Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle, traveled to a campaign event in West Virginia, where the couple posed for selfies and ginned up excitement for Patrick Morrisey, the Republican challenging Sen. Joe Manchin. Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle are expected to hit at least a dozen more events around the country before Election Day. And Eric Trump, along with his wife, Lara, is a regular presence in Trump rally world, often introducing the President and speaking before he takes the podium, as they did last week in Houston.
Not a priority
For the first lady, however, making time to campaign for Republicans, even while her husband does a whopping 11 rallies in a week, isn’t a priority. Her last major campaign appearance and speech was nearly two years ago, days before the November 2016 presidential election, when she made remarks in Pennsylvania.
“Every time my husband learned of a factory closing in Ohio or North Carolina or Pennsylvania, I could see him get very upset,” she said at the time.
Trump also talked about being an immigrant, wanting to help children fight bullying and the need for more compassionate dialogue. All of these are issues that remain relevant parts of the national conversation on the eve of midterms.
“The first lady has the highest approval rating of anyone in the administration,” says Doug Heye, a CNN political commentator, GOP consultant and communications operative. “There is practically no Republican candidate that would not want her to campaign, or benefit from her, especially since she can help smooth out some of the administration’s rougher edges.”
The first lady has a favorable rating 13 points higher than that of her husband, according to the most recent CNN poll, with Melania Trump at 54% and the President at 41%.
“First ladies are typically more relatable than their husbands,” says Kate Andersen Brower, a CNN contributor and author of “First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies.”
“People often say they feel like they could sit down and have a cup of coffee with them,” she said.
While that familiarity might apply more to Laura or Barbara Bush, or Michelle Obama, Brower stresses even mild interaction with the public at a political appearance can be very helpful.
“First ladies usually campaign for their husbands and report back the concerns they hear from voters,” she said.
Trump remains a top adviser to her husband and is a more influential confidante than the couple’s public interaction, and salacious headlines about their marriage, might imply. In a rare exchange with reporters last month in Egypt, Trump said she regularly discusses important political issues with the President.
“Well, I don’t always agree (with) what he thinks and I tell him that. I give him my honest opinion and honest advice,” she said, admitting that “sometimes he listens, sometimes he doesn’t.”
Brower said often first ladies can be a secret weapons for their spouses.
“They can be a gut check for their husbands, who are often surrounded by advisers who are reluctant to disagree with them,” she said.
Asked whether Trump, although not physically present at campaign events, stays in the loop on her husband’s midterm push agenda and if she weighs in on his rally appearances, Grisham responded, “Yes.”
However, the role Melania Trump won’t compromise, even for the President of the United States, appears to be that of mother to the first couple’s 12-year-old son. During the presidential campaign, Trump cited being a constant presence at home for Barron Trump as the No. 1 reason she would not be a regular at events, unlike previous first ladies.
“I tend to think it’s helpful to be open and honest with people and having the President’s wife and children on the campaign trail usually helps soften the President’s image. It brings out their humanity,” says Brower. “But it’s also clear that Melania Trump is a very private person with a young son who didn’t want this life, so why should she be compelled to campaign?”