Amidst the allegations of plagiarism, it’s easy to forget that the most significant problem with Melania Trump’s speech was its failure to make the case to women to vote for Donald Trump.
The latest CNN/ORC poll found that 32% of women hold a favourable view of Mr Trump and that 36% of women would vote for him if the election were held today. Romney won approximately 44% of women voters in 2012.
Let’s be frank. Melania Trump is Donald Trump’s wife. They are raising a child together. No-one is in a better position to humanise the man than she is. No-one is better positioned to give a women’s perspective on why Mr Trump should be the next President than she is.
Indeed, rather than look to Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech for inspiration, Mrs Trump should have looked to Ann Romney’s 2012 address. In that speech, we learnt how she met Mitt Romney. We learnt why she fell in love with him. We learnt about their time living together in a ‘basement apartment.’ But more importantly, Ann Romney made a serious effort to reach out to women voters.
The whole speech, which can be found here, is worth reading again in full.
In it, Ann Romney spoke directly to the experiences and challenges faced by women in America. In one of her best passages, she declared:
“You know what it’s like to work a little harder during the day to earn the respect you deserve at work and then come home to help with that book report which just has to be done.”
Later on in the speech, she notes:
“I’m not sure if men really understand this, but I don’t think there’s a woman in America who really expects her life to be easy. In our own ways, we all know better!”
By taking time in her speech to address women exclusively, Mrs Romney made it clear her speech was an attempt not just to give her perspective on why her husband should be President but to give a women’s perspective on why Mr Romney should be President.
Melania Trump’s speech, by contrast, did not seek to do the same. This speech was very much Mrs Trump’s perspective. The following passage makes this clear:
“I can tell you with certainty that my husband has been concerned about our country for as long as I have known him. With all of my heart, I know that he will make a great and lasting difference.”
Melania Trump’s speech was short of humanising anecdotes. It was also short of anecdotes touting Mr. Trump’s successes. Indeed, the most mystifying line in the speech might have been when Melania Trump declared “His achievements speak for themselves.”
No. They don’t. You are there, in part, to give voice to them. That line is a cop out.
Ann Romney, by contrast, outlined the highlights of Mr Romney’s time as Governor of Massachusetts and touched on several more personal moments she had shared with her husband.
Was Ann Romney’s speech successful? Well, Mr Romney didn’t become President. But in CNN/ORC polls taken before and after the 2012 Republican Convention, the proportion of likely voters who believed that Romney was ‘in touch with the problems facing women today’ increased from 31 to 36%.
Melania Trump’s speech was a missed opportunity. Ann Romney’s address shows you why.