RNC highlights: Ted Cruz draws boos while Mike Pence accepts VP nomination
Donald Trump thinks she would make a fine vice president. One conservative cites her as one of the reasons to vote for Trump.
Ivanka Trump, 34, wife, mother of three, fashion entrepreneur, advocate for women’s empowerment and an executive vice president in her father’s real estate empire, has eschewed an official role in his campaign.
But she’s a critical adviser and perhaps the unorthodox campaigner’s most important surrogate, especially with his wife, Melania, seemingly more comfortable on the sidelines. It will be Ivanka who introduces her father to the nation Thursday as he delivers what could be the most important speech yet of his unconventional campaign.
“I’m terrified, I am excited, I am honored,” she told ABC about her appearance before the Republican National Convention, the stakes raised by revelations that Melania Trump’s speech on Monday contained excerpts similar to Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech introducing her husband.
Ivanka has her father’s complete trust: “He’s totally left it up to me, I think he wants it to come from my heart,” she told the show.
Ivanka Trump’s poise stands in stark contrast to her bombastic father and sends a message to anxious voters: even if they’ve got qualms about Trump’s temperament, he’s done something right with Ivanka.
“Donald’s daughter and Svengali, Ivanka, is a smart, smart, smart lady with an extraordinary intellect and influence on her father,” conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt wrote, listing Ivanka as one of six reasons he’d vote for Trump despite conservative angst over his candidacy.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., echoed the sentiment when he said he didn’t want to be considered for vice president, but that Trump’s “best running mate,” would be his daughter. “I know that wouldn't pass muster, probably,” Corker told NBC. “But I don't know that I've met a more composed, brilliant, beautiful-in-every-way person.”
As Trump faces a formidable gender gap – a majority of women hold deeply unfavorable opinions of the candidate – his daughter is a valuable counterpoint. She and brothers Don. Jr. and Eric are all top executives with the Trump Organization and would likely run the company if Trump wins the presidency. But it’s Ivanka whom her father appears to rely on the most.
Indeed, Trump’s controversial campaign manager Corey Lewandowski got the boot in June after months of infighting when Ivanka Trump reportedly threatened to leave the campaign if the combative Lewandowski did not.
Always impeccable, usually in clothing from her eponymous fashion line, she often attends his campaign events and was a front-row presence at many of the Republican primary debates. (At a September debate, Trump suggested his daughter should replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill.)
Last spring, as Trump sought to nail down the nomination, she and other family members personally called delegates in key primary states to vouch for their father: John Trandem, a North Dakota man identified in late May as the delegate that secured Trump the Republican nomination, told reporters he fielded a call from Ivanka, who told him her father was pro-life and opposed to gay marriage.
It was Ivanka who introduced Trump when he announced his bid for the presidency. She accompanied her father earlier this month as he courted lawmakers on Capitol Hill and as he interviewed vice presidential hopefuls. She could be the most influential child of a president since George W. Bush.
Ivanka Trump and her father appeared together on his reality TV hit, “The Celebrity Apprentice,” for several seasons and are exceedingly close, even as Trump’s commentary on his daughter’s looks has raised eyebrows: In 2003, he boasted to radio shock jock Howard Stern that his daughter was “one of the great beauties of the world, according to everybody. And I helped create her. .. She’s 6 feet tall, she’s got the best body.”
He later joked to the hosts of daytime TV talk show “The View” that if he weren’t her father, “perhaps I’d be dating her.”
Ivanka Trump generally steers clear of policy, focusing on her family, the family business, her fashion and jewelry lines and lately, and ivankatrump.com, a Pinterest-esque website geared to young professional women as a “celebration of women working at all aspects of their lives.” But she defends her father against accusations of sexism.
“He’s highly gender-neutral,” she told Town & Country in an interview when asked about her father’s putdowns of women such as Carly Fiorina and Megyn Kelly. “If he doesn't like someone, he’ll articulate that, and I think it’s also part of what resonates about him. He’ll say what he’s thinking. I think that’s very refreshing, because with most politicians I've witnessed, you have no idea if what’s coming out of their mouths is married to their viewpoints."
While Donald Trump brawls on the campaign trail, lambastes his critics as “pathetic” and engages in Twitter fights, his daughter soothes nerves.
“She has a lot of class,” said Hugo Ledezma, past president of a Florida homeowners’ association that had complained about construction noise when Trump renovated a golf course in Doral, Fla. Ivanka Trump appeared at several homeowners’ meetings, Ledezma said, and helped hammer out a solution: “She has a way about her.”
Though she and her father say he values her advice, it’s uncertain how much he listens. Ivanka was troubled enough by his remarks about Mexicans and rape at his campaign launch that she drafted a statement for him to walk them back, New York Magazine reported last August. But the candidate refused then, and now, to revise his remarks.
“I’m a daughter, not a clone,” she told “Good Morning America” last November, adding there “are times when I’ve disagreed with him.
“We discuss a lot of things,” she said. "He’s one of my closest friends, in addition to my mentor.”
She was 9 when her parents split in messy, garish tabloid fashion. She recalls walking past a newsstand with a Daily News headline blaring “Love on the Rocks” with a photograph of her parents mocked up to look like it had been torn in half, she wrote in her 2009 memoir, “The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life.” But she says her parents sought to protect their children.
And she writes that she grew closer to her father as a result, visiting him before and after school every day. Setbacks can either “break you” or make you stronger, she wrote: “I chose to gain strength.”
She began working with her father while just a teenager, something she said was expected of her and her brothers. One of her first gigs: shadowing a construction foreman at a Trump project.
She attended high school at the prestigious Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Conn., but as a bit of an escape from what she called the “sleepy pace” of Connecticut, began modeling.
After two years at Georgetown University, she transferred and graduated summa cum laude in 2004 from her father’s alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
Her husband, Jared Kushner, whom she met through mutual friends, has become part of the campaign as well, including helping to write his father-in-law’s first scripted speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March and assisting with development of Trump’s website LyingCrookedHillary.com. Kushner is owner and publisher of the weekly, New York Observer, which gushingly endorsed Trump in April.
Trump has joked that his son-in-law, the scion of another family-owned New York real estate company, is developing a taste for politics.
“Honestly, Jared is a very successful real estate person, but I actually think he likes politics more than he likes real estate,” Trump said in Indiana on the night he essentially locked up the Republican nomination. “And he is very good at politics.”
Ivanka converted to Judaism before the couple wed in October 2009 and says they put family first – particularly on Fridays when they unplug for the Sabbath.
“We don’t do anything except play with each other, hang out with one another, go on walks together,” she told Vogue in a 2015 profile. “Pure family.”
They’re also big on group dinners, though the campaign has prompted at least one friendship to be put on hold, temporarily: that with former first daughter and fellow New Yorker Chelsea Clinton, who told Vogue in an interview months before the campaign started that Ivanka “in some ways reminds me of my dad, and his ability to increase the joy of the room.”
Trump’s politics beyond her loyalty to her father are more complicated. Like her father, who has chalked up his contributions to candidates on both sides of the aisle as savvy business investments, Ivanka Trump has given to Democrats – including Hillary Clinton – and to Republicans. In 2013, she and her husband hosted a fundraiser for then-Senate hopeful Cory Booker, D-N.J.
She was unable to cast a vote for her father in New York’s Republican primary in April because she was registered as an independent and failed to switch parties in time.
“I've always voted based on the candidate as opposed to the party,” she told CNN during a Town Hall.
She turned the experience with what she called New York’s “onerous” voter registration rules into videos for her father’s campaign, stressing to voters in primary states the importance of knowing their state’s rules.
Still, she made it plain that her father’s run for the presidency doesn’t mean she’s a Republican.
She’ll absolutely vote for her father in November, she said. At that point, she added, “I can vote as an independent.”