Trump’s family keeps low profile in homestretch of campaign

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 October, 2016, 1:25am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 October, 2016, 1:25am

Donald Trump’s family is farther from the national spotlight than usual as the Republican presidential nominee gets closer and closer to the biggest test of his life: Election Day.

Trump lifted his children up to the highest levels of his company and the television show that put him in millions of households across the US. But they’re playing less visible roles in his campaign as the nation focuses on its closing weeks, a surprising turn after headlining all four nights of July’s Republican National Convention.

Viewed as a crucial asset in her father’s play for millennial and female voters, Trump’s daughter Ivanka received rave reviews for her convention speech and was poised for a leading role in advocating for his candidacy. But Ivanka, who had a confrontational interview in September with Cosmopolitan.com, a popular site for young women, has been mostly limiting her appearances on the trail to smaller events.

After more than a week of silence on the remarks her father made in 2005 boasting of groping women — he denies actually committing sexual assault — Ivanka finally said flatly that the lewd remarks were wrong.

“My father’s comments were clearly inappropriate and offensive and I’m glad that he acknowledged this fact with an immediate apology to my family and the American people,” she told Fast Company in an article published Monday.

Before Monday’s round of interviews defending her husband from sexual-assault allegations from several women, Trump’s wife, Melania, had herself spent weeks avoiding the media following revelations that her speech at the convention plagiarised portions of one given by first lady Michelle Obama. She has no intention of playing a significant public role in the closing weeks of the campaign, according to a person close to the family.

Don Jr., Trump’s eldest son, shares his father’s penchant for shock-jock radio appearances, and that has led to several campaign fumbles. On Tuesday, audio of him joking in 2012 on the “Opie and Anthony” radio show about the Aurora, Colorado, theatre shootings erupted as a campaign issue in the battleground state.

Son Eric has also been an ardent defender of his dad, but without the stature and political experience of Trump surrogates like Rudy Giuliani, has not always come off as effective in interviews.

“When it comes to Trump’s family, I don’t think any of them really understood the full force of what a presidential campaign can bring to bear on a person,” said Reed Galen, who worked on George W. Bush’s campaigns and was 2008 nominee John McCain’s deputy campaign manager. “Trump has always been so popular — they mistook reality TV for reality.”

Trump’s anti-Washington campaign has left him with few high-profile Republicans to speak on his behalf, and given him more reason to lean on his family to serve as character witnesses to whom voters could relate.

“When it comes to Trump’s family, I don’t think any of them really understood the full force of what a presidential campaign can bring to bear on a person”
Reed Galen, who worked on George W. Bush’s campaigns

But the Trump family hasn’t always shined in that role, as some say Melania’s media tour demonstrated.

“My impression is that her CNN interview was not particular effective,” said Amy Fried, chairwoman of the University of Maine’s political science department. “She said her husband was ‘egged’ into making those remarks to Billy Bush and compared him to her young son in terms of maturity. Given that Donald Trump is seen widely as lacking the temperament to be president, it’s not helpful for his wife to say he lacks self-control.”

As the convention unfolded, the sense within the party was that Trump’s three eldest adult children would all be strong surrogates who could serve as force multipliers, according to Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak.

“That hasn’t really happened,” he said. “From my perspective, the children and Melania all seem to reflexively fall in to Trump-speak, saying everything’s ‘amazing’ rather than offering personal testimonials about the father and husband that Donald has been.”