MILWAUKEE — After a rough week of campaigning in Wisconsin, Donald Trump on Monday night turned to a soft-spoken and rarely seen surrogate to help smooth the edges.
Melania Trump, the Republican front-runner’s wife, took the stage moments after her husband reached the podium, delivering her longest speech of the campaign on the eve of the Wisconsin primary, touting the billionaire as a fighter.
Rarely heard from on the campaign trail, the Slovenian-born former model has previously shared only a few words with Trump supporters during the spare occasions she has joined the brash billionaire on stage at campaign rallies.
But Melania Trump’s mission Monday night — capping off a week of controversies with the potential to hurt Trump’s already struggling support among women voters — was clear as she delivered prepared remarks clocking in at just under a minute.
“As you may know by now, when you attack him he will punch back 10 times harder,” she said in her thick eastern European accent. “No matter who you are, a man or a woman, he treats everyone equal. He’s a fighter and if you elect him to be your president he will fight for you and for our country.”
The would-be first lady lauded her husband as a “kind” man with a “great heart” who is both “a great communicator” and negotiator.
“He’s telling the truth,” she said. “He will work for you and with you and together we will make America strong and great again.”
Trump, for his part, praised his wife — who has said she has remained mostly off the campaign trail to be a present parent to their nine-year-old son — as an “incredible mother.”
Melania Trump’s remarks came after Trump’s campaign manager was charged last Tuesday with battery for allegedly grabbing a female reporter last month after a news conference.
That news dominated the airwaves for several days until Trump himself stirred controversy with a series of comments on abortion that he and his campaign quickly walked back.
Trump said in an MSNBC town hall that women should face “some form of punishment” for getting an abortion should the procedure be outlawed — a statement that united anti-abortion activists and abortion rights supporters in condemnation. Trump reversed that statement hours later in a statement, referring to women who get abortions as victims.
But just two days later, Trump appeared to flip-flop again on the issue, saying in an interview Friday that he would not change the country’s laws to outlaw abortion. His spokeswoman later walked back that remark.
Trump’s struggles put him at risk of losing the largely reliably supportive constituency of evangelical voters before the Wisconsin primary, considered a pivotal group.
Trump, who was viewed unfavorably by more than 7-in-10 women voters according to the most recent CNN/ORC poll, also stood to lose even more support among them.
Melania Trump was not the only woman Trump brought on stage Monday night.
Melissa Young, a former Wisconsin beauty queen who attended one of Trump’s rallies days earlier, shared her story of struggling with what she described as an incurable illness.
She called Trump “the greatest man I’ve ever met” and insisted that the billionaire’s “heart is made of pure gold.”
“If this man becomes president of the United States of America he is going to give me the best gift ever,” Young said. “And that is I’ll know that when I leave this world I won’t be hear to watch my son grow, (but) I’ll know that he is going to grow up in a country that is safe. That’s what every mother wishes for.”