CLEVELAND — Melania Trump steps onto center stage Monday for the highest-profile speech of her life.
Her prime-time speech at the Quicken Loans Arena, as the keynote speaker on the first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, places her squarely in a role that she has shied away from for most of the campaign: that of a podium wife.
Melania has been working with a speechwriter for the last five to six weeks, honing her speech. She will be sticking close to script delivering her remarks off a telepompter, according to a Trump adviser.
Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort said that while Melania doesn’t love the campaign trail, she was eager to deliver this speech.
When Trump’s campaign first asked her if she wanted to do it, they thought she’d say no, according to campaign chairman Paul Manafort. But she quickly agreed and indicated she wants to be involved in showing the personal side of Trump and helping voters get to know her husband better.
Donald Trump, breaking with tradition to appear before he accepts the nomination on Thursday, will be by her side and introduce his wife.
“I bet she gives a great speech,” Trump told Fox News. ” She’s worked hard on it.”
There will be an emphasis on the personal, a window into the personality of the presumptive Republican nominee.
Trump advisers say Melania is planning to tell the audience about the Donald Trump she knows in private, the adviser said, as the campaign aims to soften Trump’s edges but also appeal to female voters.
“She’s a very, very confident person,” the adviser said. And “she appeals to a different demographic.”
Melania Trump has been visible from the beginning of the Trump campaign, riding down the escalator of Trump Tower in a pristine white dress ahead of her husband’s announcement.
But she is often seen more than she is heard. She is something of a reluctant campaign spouse — preferring to stand by her man, but only making rare, brief cameras at the podium herself.
Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka, often steps into fill that role. When Trump declared his candidacy last June, it was Ivanka who introduced her father, not Melania.
Despite a few quick words at the microphone in the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, Melania’s only real speech this election didn’t come until April in Milwaukee on the eve of the Wisconsin’s primary. And that speech clocked in at a mere ninety seconds.
“He’s a great leader. He’s fair. As you may know by now, when you are talking, he will punch back 10 times harder,” Melania Trump told the crowd.
And, in perhaps the most moment memorable moment of the short speech, Melania delivered a very specific message at a time when Trump was embroiled in controversy over his past treatment of women.
“No matter who you are, a man or a woman, he treats everyone equal,” she said.
But as she demurs from the spotlight, she is taking a strong behind-the-scenes role. Her voice carries real weight with a candidate known for his tight inner circle in which his family members are treated as his closest advisers.
“She said, if you run, you’ll win,” Trump recalled in Council Bluffs Iowa in January. “And almost from the day we announced we’ve been in first place. So here’s my best pollster.”
She has been known to step in at key moments during the campaign to help diffuse a situation, calling her husband out at some of the most controversial moments during his campaign, telling him to tone down his rhetoric or act more presidential.
“I don’t try to change him. He’s an adult. He knows the consequences. And so I let him be who he I,” Melania told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in a February interview. “I give him my opinions many, many times.”
Trump has called her his “secret weapon” and praised her at campaign rallies for being “beautiful on the inside” and “smart.”
A Trump campaign adviser said that while Melania hasn’t been a force on the campaign trail, she watches a lot of the news coverage and is attuned to the political mood — and she conveys those impressions to Trump.
But she’s not a political spouses who’s constantly weighing in.
“She knows her husband,” the adviser said. “She doesn’t inject herself unless she thinks it’s necessary.”