By JORDYN PHELPS, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — Following the dark and ominous rhetoric that largely dominated the first night of the Republican National Convention, first lady Melania Trump will headline Tuesday night’s events with what her chief of staff describes as a “very uplifting” and “very positive” address that includes making the case for her husband’s reelection.
“I know that tonight is very positive and uplifting,” Stephanie Grisham told reporters, even as she said she disagreed with the characterizations that the tone of Monday’s night’s speeches was anything other than “very passionate,” as she put it.
When the first lady steps to the podium Tuesday night in the historic Rose Garden that she finished renovating just days ahead of the convention — to some controversy — a key task will be appealing to and making her husband more relatable to women voters. A recent ABC/Washington Post poll found that President Donald Trump trails former Vice President Joe Biden’s support among women by double digits, 56% to 40%.
In what was perhaps a preview of her speech, the first lady on Monday sought to cast the president as a champion for women when she spoke at an event related to the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
“Since taking office, my husband and this administration have taken historic measures to empower and support women in the United States – and around the world,” Mrs. Trump said Monday.
Trump will make her speech before a live audience that will include the president, the vice president, the second lady, some members of the Cabinet, friends and family, and people who have helped with her “Be Best” initiative, Grisham said. The White House says that audience members will receive COVID-19 tests beforehand.
While Trump’s first task will be to persuade people to vote for her husband, Grisham said much of the speech will also focus on her work as first lady.
“I would say it is very forward looking, she lays out some of the things she wants to do with the best in the next four years. She also reflects on some of her favorite moments as first lady which there are many. And I think she makes a really good case to the American people about why it is so important that her president continue — her husband continue on as our president for the next four years,” Grisham said.
Grisham said it will be one of the longest speeches the first lady has ever delivered.
Tuesday night’s address will also be an opportunity for the first lady to turn the page on the from her 2016 convention address, which was overshadowed by accusations that portions of the speech were plagiarized from a prior speech by former first lady Michelle Obama.
A speechwriter for the Trump Organization took the blame.
This time around, Grisham said “every word” is Trump’s and will be “from the heart.”
“I think it has been very clear over the last three and a half years Mrs. Trump has done nothing but learn and grow in this role and she’s been doing a fantastic job at that. We have been working really hard the last three weeks, I can tell you that every word in this speech is from her, it is very authentic and it is going to come from the heart,” she said.
The other point of controversy hanging over her speech is the choice of venue in using the Rose Garden, part of the official White House, albeit outdoors, as the setting for a political speech. It has raised a host of ethical questions over whether it blurs the lines between the discharge of official duties and campaigning activity.
The first lady is not subject to the Hatch Act, her chief of staff contended Tuesday, and further defended the propriety of Melania Trump speaking from a location that serves as her “home” amid a pandemic.
“This is their home. It is — the people’s house, but it is also their home. So, she thought it would be really nice to deliver tonight’s speech from their home,” Grisham said. “And with COVID right now, it is difficult to safely get out there and travel, and the footprint, of course, that the president or the first lady has when they travel is huge when you consider secret service and the people who have to travel with them,” she said.
While the first lady might not be subject to the Hatch Act, staff are. And Grisham also said that staff has been closely abiding by White House counsel guidance to avoid any potential violation.
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