Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump is rolling out a new surrogate this week: his wife.
Melania Trump suddenly emerged on the campaign trail in the last several days after largely staying out of the spotlight for the much of the race.
Almost every other candidate’s spouse has done event after event, but Melania Trump has said she is focused on raising their 10-year-old son, Barron.
That started to change this week. She joined her husband onstage for an hour-long town hall hosted by Sean Hannity that aired Monday. The same day, she introduced the real-state mogul at a Wisconsin rally.
Melania Trump came to Monday’s events armed with talking points and applause lines, explaining to her audiences how Trump’s tough rhetoric could be a presidential asset.
“He can be presidential. But sometimes he cannot stand when somebody attacks him. Because when somebody attacks him, he punches back ten times harder,” she told Hannity.
At the Wisconsin rally, she echoed the same sentiment.
“As you may know by now, when you attack him, he will punch back ten times harder,” she said as the audience burst into applause.
Melania Trump’s higher profile on the campaign trail came as Donald Trump has fallen behind in Wisconsin, according to polls. A Trump loss in Wisconsin would complicate his path to reaching the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the GOP nomination.
Trump has spent much of the last several weeks weathering a series of firestorms. His campaign manager was charged last week with misdemeanour battery in an incident in which a reporter accused the aide of bruising her arm. Trump was also forced to backpedal after suggesting that if the US made abortion illegal, women who sought out abortions should be punished.
At least some of these gaffes could appear to be hurting Trump among female voters. Various national surveys showed his unfavorable ratings hovering between 65-75% among female survey respondents.
The Trump campaign appears aware of the problem.
Melania Trump appeared more frequently alongside her husband after Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, left the campaign trail last month to give birth. Melania Trump used the opportunities to try and soften her husband’s image. She gently chided him on Monday, for example, for promoting an unflattering photo of rival Ted Cruz’s wife.
“Sometimes I feel like the retweets get him in trouble. So stay away from retweets,” Melania Trump said as Hannity’s audience laughed. “And if he would only listen.”
She added: “He’s very kind, he has a great heart. He would not harm anybody. He would not harm women or men. He’s really a great, great guy. Beautiful heart.”