Strictly business: How Donald Trump's children are running the campaign
As family begins to make a larger appearance in the Republican presidential campaign, Donald Trump's children, particularly Ivanka Trump, are poised to take a role unprecedented in modern American politics.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Republican nominee Donald Trump touted his business success throughout primary season, and unusual choices at the party's national convention suggest that his outsider campaign has become a family business.
A Republican National Convention that broke traditions right and left featured four prime-time slots for Mr. Trump's children, an unprecedented shift in both the nominee's campaign and American politics.
"Donald Trump has chosen his children to be his top surrogates because they are all in this, running this together," says Anita McBride, former chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush and executive-in-residence at American University in Washington, D.C. "They are not a political family, they are a business family who are now in the world of politics."
Prime-time speeches at a national convention typically launch rising members of the party. The decision to give four slots to Trump's children partly demonstrates the distrust with which GOP elite still view their nominee, but it also shows that the Trump quartet – not counting Barron Trump, age 10 – have taken to politics "very quickly," says Ms. McBride, who attended the convention in Cleveland. The unprecedented convention role for Donald Jr., Eric, Ivanka, and Tiffany Trump, and their positive reception, illustrates how they will act as his closest advisors and stand-ins.
"They will be very well-sought-after surrogates," McBride says, and with them fully on board, "A new campaign starts today."
Family has entered the stage somewhat later in Trump's campaign than most, and not all family members had equal effect. The speech by Trump's wife, Melania, for example, bore a too-striking resemblance to one of Michelle Obama's. (Their son, Barron, appeared several times in a suit as a convention escort alongside his half-siblings. His appearances have been intentionally few at the request of his mother.)
The critical acclaim fell most prominently to 34-year-old Ivanka Trump, who has worked with her father since 2005 and introduced her father's keynote speech on Thursday.
In searching for a comparison to this potential first daughter, Douglas Wead, author of the presidential history "All the President's Children," reached back to Anna Roosevelt, a professional journalist who "basically ran the White House" during the final year of Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency.
Like Anna Roosevelt, Ivanka Trump has a successful career in her own right. She has an influence with her father that long-time business associates describe as unparalleled, and she personally closes some of his most important real estate deals, The New York Times reported in April.
In her speech, she revealed her own business acumen and close relationship with the candidate – she contacts her father as often as five times daily, according to the Times – that give her the potential to influence the campaign.
On the one hand, Ivanka Trump invoked the traditional mantra behind bringing a candidate's offspring to the campaign trail.
"Judge his values by those he’s instilled in his children," she urged delegates.
On the other, she displayed an interest in shaping policy of her own as she targeted the gender wage gap, especially for mothers.
"He will fight for equal pay for equal work, and I will fight for this, too, right alongside of him," she said.
Americans have grown accustomed to candidate's children who are either too young to participate or who restrict their public role to fundraising. The Trumps appear poised to become a presidential family not seen since the Kennedys, Mr. Wead tells the Monitor.
"That may speak to Donald Trump," he says. "He’s very sure of himself, he's not afraid to put his kids forward. He sees his kids as an advantage, and I think he’s right."
This shake-up within the traditional campaign model serves as yet another sign of Trump's willingness to buck the system, a boon to supporters whose vote for Trump signals the rejection of business as usual, McBridge says. Trump's poised, politically inexperienced but business-savvy adult children illustrate that in the full-color cinema of a presidential campaign.