CLEVELAND ― Until Melania Trump delivered her speech Monday night at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where she told a nationwide audience that Donald Trump “will never, ever let you down,” most delegates here didn’t know much about Donald Trump’s spouse and would-be first lady. However, there was one thing about Melania Trump that many attendees here all seemed to like: She isn’t Michelle Obama.
“I think Michelle Obama feels very bitter towards the United States. She made that statement about finally being proud of the U.S.,” said Barbara Dodge, a delegate from West Memphis, Arkansas, who supported Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Dodge said she finds Mrs. Trump “quite intelligent” and believes “she’ll make a nice first lady.”
“When they did a tour of her house on television, she was very gracious, very intelligent,” Dodge added. “[She] gave a very good impression.”
“Well, number one, she’ll make a beautiful first lady, won’t she?” Fred Dyer, a delegate from St. Louis and Trump supporter in the primary, said of Mrs. Trump. Michelle Obama, meanwhile, “hasn’t been proud of our country,” said Dyer.
Indeed, in nearly every interview The Huffington Post conducted with delegates at the Republican National Convention, subjects mentioned Mrs. Obama’s 2008 statement, “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country,” as a reason for their dislike for the first lady, and contrasted that view with a favorable one of Mrs. Trump.
However, many delegates exhibited an anger at the first lady that went deeper than her public statements, singling out other aspects of her behavior, as well.
“She’s been falsely aggrieved,” said Rep. Bill O’Brien, a New Hampshire state representative and RNC delegate, adding that he was dismayed by “the fact that she would spend so much of the public funds on her absurd vacations.”
“I’m not such a Michelle Obama fan,” said Ken Walker, a delegate from Charlotte, North Carolina. “Her spending habits have been semi-excessive.” Walker said he admired Melania Trump, in part, because “she followed the American dream and has been willing to work for what she’s wanted.”
“She visited the queen of England and wore a skirt!” said Patricia Poprik, a Pennsylvania delegate, referencing the first lady’s meeting with the Queen of the United Kingdom. “I’ve never in my lifetime ― I’m 67 ― I’ve never seen a first lady wear skintight clothes. It’s just inappropriate for the first lady.”
Poprik believes that a first lady Melania Trump will remind Americans of Jacqueline Kennedy, the wife of President John F. Kennedy who was renowned worldwide for her style and manners.
“She always dressed nicely and followed decorum!” said Poprik.
Melania Trump has kept a relatively low profile so far on the campaign trail, granting only a handful of interviews and speaking rarely. Her speech Moinday night provided many Republicans ― and Americans ― their first substantive look of the woman who might be America’s next first lady.
Though Mrs. Trump spent part of her speech discussing her youth in Slovenia and work in fashion and modeling, she spent most of her address discussing her husband.
“If you want someone to fight for you and your country,” she said, “I can assure you he is the guy.”
“It was very inspiring and I thought she was very gracious,” said Anne Putnam, a delegate from Dalton, Georgia, who supported Donald Trump’s campaign since its inception. “I always felt she was a very lovely woman and would make a wonderful first lady ― someone we can be so proud of.“
Betty Budd, a delegate from North Carolina, called Melania’s speech “terrific.”
“I think she’ll be excellent, because she is already focused on helping children and I think she has real compassion,” Budd said.
Those comments were made before news broke that passages of the speech about hard work and honesty appeared to have been plagiarized from first lady Michelle Obama’s 2008 address to the Democratic National Convention.
Not all delegates held such a negative view of Michelle Obama’s time as first lady.
Susan McDonald, a delegate from Minnesota, spoke highly of her tenure. “I think she’s been a fantastic first lady,” McDonald said. “You don’t want your first lady to be controversial, and she wasn’t.”
McDonald added that Melania Trump would be a far better first lady than Donald Trump’s opponent.
“[Melania] will never be like Hillary, [who] is a hated person because she is a liar and she is crooked,” McDonald said. “She always wanted to be president.”