Donald Trump has a secret weapon as he seeks to burnish his image in Cleveland: his daughter Ivanka Trump.
A mogul in her own right, Ivanka Trump has become her father’s most effective surrogate, softening the edges of Donald Trump’s brash and often controversial presidential campaign.
And she’s being called upon to play that role again in the spotlight of this week’s Republican National Convention.
“She’s seen much differently than her father — she certainly has a classier, more reasoned reputation, and she’s beloved by a lot of the people her father is not beloved by,” said Robert Thompson, a Syracuse University communications professor.
Expectations are high for her speech, with some seeing it as the presumptive nominee’s best chance to push back on accusations of sexism.
Ivanka Trump, 34, has addressed those charges head on before, calling her father a “feminist” who has been unfairly characterized by the press.
She has won widespread praise in defense of her father, even from some of his critics.
“I think Ivanka Trump has been Donald Trump’s best surrogate,” said Doug Heye, a former Republican National Committee aide who doesn’t support Trump.
“Unlike her father, she always appears poised and thoughtful, so I’m not surprised that she has such a prominent role in the campaign and the convention.”
Like her father, Ivanka Trump was largely a household name well before his meteoric political rise. She played a pivotal role in later seasons of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” graced magazine covers for her work as a model and has her own fashion line.
She’s an active part of the family business and has emerged as a trusted adviser throughout his presidential campaign.
While much of the political world scoffed at the prospect of Donald Trump’s candidacy, it was Ivanka who took the stage in Trump Tower in June 2015 to tout her father as the only man “bold and independent” enough to put the country back on track.
She traveled the campaign trail in Iowa despite being seven months pregnant, reportedly played a central role in her father’s dismissal of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and attended high-level meetings last week with the campaign’s vice presidential finalists.
Her visibility prompted a number of Trump allies to only half-jokingly suggest that she should join the ticket.
“His best running mate, by the way, would be Ivanka,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) in an interview with MSNBC this month just after meeting with Donald Trump and withdrawing his name from the vice presidential race.
“I know that wouldn’t pass muster, probably, but I don’t know if I’ve ever met a more composed, brilliant, beautiful-in-every-way person.”
A summa cum laude graduate of the Wharton School — where her father also attended — Ivanka Trump has been described by the media as very much like her dad, though that may not be apparent to the public.
A 2007 New York Times article said Donald Trump’s second-oldest child “inherited her father’s prodigious flair for self-promotion” and is “her father’s daughter to the bone.”
That same year, Marie Claire magazine said “Ivanka has clearly inherited a little of her father’s P.T. Barnum instincts, as well as his liberal way with superlatives.”
But it’s the contrast in style, one that has allowed her to rise above much of the criticism lobbed at her father, that plays to Trump’s advantage.
Her active role in his campaign, Heye said, helps to portray the candidate as a “good parent,” which could help his appeal.
“Whatever else is said about Trump by people who don’t support him, of which I am obviously one, she and his sons speak to the fact that he’s raised a good family, and that’s obviously an asset,” he said.
She has repeatedly been deployed as a counterweight to her father’s most controversial comments, especially involving women.
Ivanka Trump appeared on “CBS This Morning” in May to do damage control after a New York Times story detailed her father’s relationships with women. She swatted aside the “discredited” piece and said he has a history of promoting women in business. And in June, she declared him a “feminist” father who told her she could do anything she set her mind to.
Her husband, Jared Kushner, for whom she converted to Orthodox Judaism before their marriage in 2009, has also become a trusted adviser and defender. He reportedly played an important role in Donald Trump’s speech to a major Jewish Republican group last year and penned an opinion piece lambasting those who labeled Trump as an anti-Semite after he tweeted an image that included a six-pointed star and a wall of money.
This week, she’ll step into her biggest challenge: attempting to convince female voters to have a Trump renaissance.
Her father can use all the help he can get with women. More than three-quarters surveyed by ABC News and The Washington Post said they held an unfavorable view of Trump. And other polls are similarly dismal.
“Her goal is to personalize her father and describe the qualities she sees in Donald Trump that other people have had problems seeing,” GOP strategist Ron Bonjean said.
“There’s no better platform for Ivanka Trump to make the case for her father and gender equality than the Republican convention. This is where Republicans are supposed to come together as a party behind the Republican nominee. Having a message like that to millions of voters would be extremely helpful.”
Despite the praise, some preach caution about Ivanka Trump meeting such lofty expectations, even if she gives a flawless speech.
Because, for all the damage control she has helped with over the past year, it does not appear to have persuaded many female voters.
“That has got to be one rhetorical sleight of hand if she’s going to get a woman who has been slowly but surely simmering about all these things Trump has been saying about women that is offensive, and then have her listen to Ivanka Trump and go ‘Oh OK, maybe I feel differently now. He gets my vote,’ ” said Thompson.
“That’s got to be one whopper of a speech to do that.”
But if his daughter is able to deliver, Donald Trump could have a message to hold on to as he desperately tries to peel female voters away from Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
“If she makes the right speech,” Bonjean said, “the Trump campaign should bottle her comments up and deploy them in key battleground states to … soften the ground.”
Trump’s other adult kids
Eric, 32, has had an active presence in Trump’s campaign and will speak at the convention.
An executive vice president at The Trump Organization and the owner of Trump Winery, Eric Trump has been a vocal surrogate for his father, appearing regularly on Fox News shows.
Eric Trump has emerged as a vocal attack dog for his father, swatting away questions about Donald Trump’s charitable giving.
Outside of the business world, Eric Trump is active in his own philanthropy, The Eric Trump Foundation, which raises money for St. Jude’s Research Center.
Donald Trump Jr.
Donald Trump Jr., 38, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s oldest son, has played a large role in the presidential campaign.
An executive vice president of The Trump Organization, Trump Jr. will also speak this week.
Trump Jr. has joined Eric Trump in sending fundraising letters to supporters and has emerged alongside his siblings Eric and Ivanka as top advisers to their father.
Commercial real estate magazine Bisnow described him as the “calmer Trump.”
Tiffany, 22, graduated this spring from her father’s alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, in the College of Arts and Sciences. She will also speak at the convention.
Raised in Los Angeles by Trump’s second wife, Marla Maples, Tiffany has made a name for herself in social media circles, with 156,000 Instagram followers.
In a November interview with Barbara Walters, Tiffany said of her father, “He’s true to himself. And he speaks in a way that the average person can understand. I think that’s refreshing for everyone.”
— Ben Kamisar