Anyone who closely followed the first lady’s border visit Thursday would have noticed that Trump does appear to care about the fate of the children she was visiting. It was not a strictly congratulatory trip. The questions Trump asked indicated genuine concern, not indifference, such as how often the children were permitted to call their parents
.. Like past first ladies, she is more popular than the president, and she seems to have a greater ability to influence public opinion of her husband among political independents and members of the opposite party, even when compared with key surrogates such as Ivanka Trump and Vice President Pence.
Those advantages come from the flexibility first ladies are afforded by their role, which allows them to stay out of partisan debates and restrict their public appearances, all the while benefiting from unfettered access to presidents and perceived closeness to them.
.. For someone who has been involved in the fashion industry and the public eye for decades, Trump, like her husband, can be surprisingly careless about her public image at times. This would be surprising in any presidential spouse, and it’s no less so coming from one who’s a former model. If anything, the words on her jacket seem to speak to a lack of interest in the role she fills.
.. In the modern era, the East Wing has developed into an intensely strategic and media-conscious operation that serves to garner positive press coverage for the president and his policy agenda. But Melania Trump’s East Wing has not yet hit its stride in this regard, despite its abundant potential to do so.
Romney’s rhetoric on China and immigration was a more restrained version of Trump’s nationalist pitch, and here and there he tried to imitate Franklin Roosevelt’s promise, updated crudely by Trump, to be a traitor to his successful class.
.. the defining pitch of the Romney campaign was the tone-deaf “you built that,” which valorized entrepreneurs and ignored ordinary workers; the defining policy blueprint was a tax reform proposal that offered little or nothing to the middle class; and the defining gaffe was the famous “47 percent” line, in which Romney succumbed, before an audience of Richie Riches, to the Ayn Randian temptation to write off struggling Americans as losers.
.. that failure lay the opportunity that Trump intuited — for a Republican candidate who would rhetorically reject and even run against the kind of corporation-first conservatism that Romney seemed to embody and embrace.
.. Trump has mostly turned his back on his own economic populism
The best of the current Republicans (the Paul Ryans, the Ben Sasses, the Mitt Romneys) have certain common features that should be appealing to the electorate. They seem to have the home life of the family man. They have the discipline and diligence of the organization kid. They have the looks of the pretty boy. Yet the public still rejects them, because the voters find their ideas even more unpleasant than Donald Trump’s odious personality.
.. But he could also perform a service by showing that he has learned something from watching Trumpism succeed where his own campaign failed — which would mean steering a different and more populist course than those NeverTrump Republicans who pine for a party of the purest libertarianism, and those OkayFineTrump Republicans who are happy now that Trump has given them their corporate tax cut.
.. Right now there is a small caucus in the Republican Party for a different way, for a conservatism that seeks to cure itself of Romney Disease by becoming genuinely pro-worker rather than waiting for a worse demagogue than Trump to come along.