US Elections 2016

Trump enlists wife to boost campaign

Mr Trump embracing his wife, Melania, on stage in Milwaukee on Monday.
Mr Trump embracing his wife, Melania, on stage in Milwaukee on Monday.PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES

Republican front runner faces flagging support among women after series of missteps

MILWAUKEE • Mr Donald Trump - he of the glamorous wives and high-profile romances - likes to boast of his prowess with women.

But the candidate for the Republican nomination as presidential candidate is having less success with female voters, who view him unfavourably by more than three to one, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll.

Now, in an apparent effort to shore up his support among women after a series of missteps, Mr Trump is enlisting his wife, Melania.

Mrs Trump joined her husband on stage at the Milwaukee Theatre on Monday for his final rally in Wisconsin - with a crowd that was less than capacity - before the state's primary yesterday.

"No matter who you are, a man or a woman, he treats everyone equal," said Mrs Trump, who spoke for just over a minute, praising her husband as "a great communicator", "a great negotiator" and "a great leader".

DONALD THE FIGHTER

As you may know by now, when you attack him, he will punch back 10 times harder. He's a fighter, and if you elect him to be our president, he will fight for you and for our country.

MRS MELANIA TRUMP, on her husband's qualities.

"As you may know by now, when you attack him, he will punch back 10 times harder," she said.

"He's a fighter, and if you elect him to be our president, he will fight for you and for our country."

Mrs Trump is a reluctant campaigner who, her husband says, did not want him to run for president. But she was recently thrust into the spotlight after a committee supporting Senator Ted Cruz put out an ad in Utah, aimed at the state's Mormon population, featuring the former model in a nude photo shoot.

Mr Trump responded by spreading a photo of his wife juxtaposed with an unflattering image of Mr Cruz's wife, Heidi - an incident that set off a storm of criticism and that he later called "a mistake".

Mr Trump has frequently invoked Melania and his daughter, Ivanka, on the campaign trial, while even Mr Trump's first wife, Ivana, mother of his three oldest children, has been speaking up for him.

Last week, in an interview with MSNBC, Mr Trump said that should abortion become illegal, women who undergo the procedure should face "some form of punishment" - a view that put him at odds even with many fervent abortion opponents - before later recanting.

Ms Katie Packer, the founder of a Republican anti-Trump committee, said it would take more than an appearance by Mr Trump's wife to help him attract female supporters.

"The rub on this guy that is commonly accepted now is that he's a sexist and a racist."

Yesterday's Wisconsin primaries are potentially pivotal, with Mr Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton seen as underdogs. Mr Trump's main rival, Mr Cruz, was eyeing the state as a crucial firewall against the billionaire's march to an outright nomination win. However, should Mr Trump snatch a surprise victory, he could suffocate Mr Cruz's campaign.

For Mr Cruz, "it is a very important win. For Trump, it is not a critical loss", University of Iowa professor Timothy Hagle said.

Mrs Clinton risked losing Wisconsin, where she faced a surging Bernie Sanders, who has won five of the last six contests. But April could prove a sunny month for her. She leads Mr Sanders by double digits in New York, which votes on April 19, and Pennsylvania, which casts ballots a week later. Mr Trump also leads handily in those states.

NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2016, with the headline 'Trump enlists wife to boost campaign'. Print Edition | Subscribe