Donald Trump unveiled a secret weapon Monday night in his battle to peel away the stubborn impression that growing numbers of female voters don’t like him: his wife Melania.
Mrs. Trump appeared on stage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, hours before a Republican primary election that will either slow down the billionaire’s political juggernaut or put him on a glide path to a presidential nomination.
She said her husband is ‘fair’ and ‘no matter who you are – a man or a woman – he treats everyone equal.’
Later on during a town hall-style interview with Sean Hannity, Trump was asked if he had a nickname for Hillary – after successfully labeling his opponents Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, ‘Lyin Ted and ‘Little Marco’, respectively.
Trump replied that he does, but that he ‘wants to knock-off the next two people, (Cruz and Kasich’ before he ‘focuses’ on Clinton.
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SECRET WEAPON: Melania Trump, wife of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the crowd during a rally at the Milwaukee Theatre on Monday
MELANIA SIGHTING: Donald Trump’s wife appeared on stage with him Monday night in Milwaukee
TOUGH TALK: Melania said that ‘as you may know by now, when you attack him, he will punch back ten times harder. No matter who you are – a man or a woman – he treats everyone equal’
EXIT STAGE LEFT: Mrs. Trump walked off just moments before a protester erupted
But in Wisconsin, Melania revved up a mid-sized crowd inside the Milwaukee Theater with an observation about her hard-charging husband.
‘As you may know by now,’ she said, ‘when you attack him, he will punch back ten times harder!’
‘He’s a fighter, and if you elect him to be your president, he will fight for you and for our country,’ she said. ‘He will work for you and lead you.
A beaming Mr. Trump stepped aside and listened to her speak, saying after Melania left the stage that he had no idea what she was going to say.
He introduced her as ‘an incredible woman. She’s an incredible mother … She will make an unbelievable first lady.’
MELANIA’S BIG NIGHT
Mrs. Trump’s remarks in Milwaukee:
‘It is wonderful to be here today with you and with my husband. I’m very proud of him. He’s a hard worker, he’s kind, he has a great heart. He’s tough. He’s smart.
‘He’s a great communicator. He’s a great negotiator. He’s studied the truth. He’s a great leader. He’s fair.
‘As you may know by now, when you attack him, he will punch back ten times harder. 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. He will work for you and lead you.
‘And together we will make America strong and great again. Thank you.’
But Melania’s remarks didn’t please everyone in the ornate theater.
A protester – the only one of the night, despite a Bernie Sanders rally taking place just a block away – hurled an unknown object and an insult toward the podium as she walked off, drawing Secret Service agents on stage from the wings on both sides.
With his wife present, Trump took a softer line on the agitator, resisting the urge to yell ‘Get him out of here!’ – a line that has become the ‘You’re Fired’ moment in dozens of contentious campaign stops.
Instead he just thanked police for clearing the activist out.
Trump has faced a growing chorus of jeers from feminists and some female TV commentators since making comments about abortion last week that alienated pro-life and pro-choice partisans at the same time.
In a politically suffocating week that wouldn’t seem to end, he also caught flak for defending his campaign manager against a battery charge lodged by a female reporter, and retweeted an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz – the wife of his main GOP rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
The political novice later described that move as ‘a mistake.
‘HE’S FAIR’: Donald Trump said his wife hadn’t told him what she was about to say before she spoke
Cruz piled on, saying Monday during a broadcast with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly that the billionaire ‘seems to have a problem with strong women. I don’t why that is. But it seems to really bother him.’
Kelly herself has crossed swords with Trump ever since an August 2015 GOP debate that she began by needling him over past comments he had made about women with whom he was publicly feuding.
The result was a series of polls that showed as many as seven in 10 American women hold unfavorable views about him.
But among female Republican voters who help decide the primary contest to pick a presidential nominee, he has maintained the support of a scant majority.
That may be enough to get him past the biggest hurdle of his short political life: collecting the support of 1,237 delegates to July’s Republican National Convention and claiming the GOP’s top spot for the November election.
ROUGH PATCH COMING? Trump faces the possibility of a tough Tuesday as Wisconsin Republicans go to the polls
Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, told National Public Radio on Friday that Trump’s defiant gaffes on women’s issues have created an image of insensitivity that would hurt him incalculably in a general election.
‘He has been his own worst enemy with women. He’s like your worst date ever – it just keeps getting worse and worse and worse as the evening goes on,’ Lake said.
‘I think if he’s the nominee, you are going to see record numbers of women turning out and you’re going to see record of numbers of women voting against him.’
Monday night’s rally, including that rare Melania sighting involving more than just a wave or a few words, comes with Trump trailing Cruz in most Wisconsin polls.
He promised a ‘very, very big victory,’ though, when he spoke in the western Wisconsin town of La Crosse on Monday morning.
At night in Milwaukee, he acknowledged the intra-party feud that threatens to derail his presidential ambitions.
‘What do they call it? They call it like, “No Trump”.’
Then he remembered. ‘They call it “Never Trump!”‘
‘Oh, you need Trump so badly, though!’
‘If they would have worked so hard, so diligently, against President Barack Hussein Obama,’ he said, ‘they would have beaten him!’