Donald Trump on Sunday gave the strongest indicator yet that he aims to retake the presidency – with Melania by his side.
Despite rumors that the Slovenian-born model was immensely relieved that her White House days were over, Trump insisted she would be back.
There has even been speculation that the couple, who never demonstrated an easy affection, could divorce after leaving the White House.
In June a book, The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump, claimed that Melania stayed at Trump Tower in New York for months after her husband’s inauguration as leverage to force a better prenuptial agreement. At the time, she claimed she was staying in the city because she didn’t want to interrupt their son Barron Trump’s school year. Many have wondered whether the prenup included a clause about how long they must remain together, once Trump left the White House.
But on Sunday, Trump insisted that his wife would be with him in 2024.
The former president told CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, that his wife would be ‘the future first lady’.
Melania, 50, was not spotted at the Orlando gathering, despite it being held only 200 miles from her Mar-a-Lago home.
Trump on Sunday afternoon addressed CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference
A woman wearing a Melania face mask is pictured at the Orlando venue for CPAC on Sunday
A giant golden statue of Donald Trump welcomed participants at the annual meeting
The last time she was seen in public was on January 20, when they landed in Florida from Washington.
While Trump waved and smiled at the waiting press when he exited the plane, his wife appeared to grimace as she walked out of shot while being filmed for the final time as the first lady.
The footage of her walking away from her husband on the tarmac in Florida has been viewed more than four million times in the day since it was posted online.
Since then, she has been invisible – although she reportedly intends to carry on working on her ‘Be Best’ campaign against social media bullying.
‘She goes to the spa, has lunch, goes to the spa (again), and has dinner with Donald on the patio,’ someone familiar with her schedule told CNN.
Melania left the White House with her approval ratings at an all-time low.
Only 42 per cent of respondents to a January 17, conducted by SSRS for CNN, approved of her behavior.
Michelle Obama departed the White House with a 69 per cent favorable rating, which was the same number as when she entered, eight years prior.
Laura Bush’s parting ranking was also largely positive, despite her husband’s unpopularity at the time. In 2009, a CNN/ORC poll put Bush at a 67 per cent favorable rating, while George W. Bush was only viewed positively by 35 per cent.
Melania Trump was last seen on January 20, marching away from the cameras in Florida
Melania Trump was last seen in public as she left Washington DC on January 20
Melania Trump had long been considered a reluctant first lady, who resented the spotlight and much preferred a quiet life.
On Sunday her husband insisted, however, that she would be back.
‘Do you miss me yet?’ Trump asked the roaring crowd as he took the stage, more than an hour later than scheduled.
Trump asserted in his grand comeback speech that he will not form a new political party because it would further divide the Republican Party.
‘We’re not starting new parties. We have the Republican Party,’ he said.
‘Wouldn’t that be brilliant?’ he sarcastically quipped. ‘Let’s start a new party, let’s divide our vote, so you can never win. No we’re not interested in that.’
Trump’s remarks came after rumors last month that he was considering creating his own political party and breaking with Republicans – especially those who rebuked him.
Trump’s Sunday speech marked his return to the political frontlines after leaving office
The former president’s supporters were out in force in Orlando on Sunday
He also used his speech to push his repeated claims of voter fraud.
He said of the Democrats: ‘Actually as you know, they just lost the White House, but it’s one of those things.
‘But who knows, who knows, I may even decide to beat them for a third time.’
He thanked his supporters for continuing on the ‘incredible journey’ with him, and promised to ‘fight right by your side’.
He said: ‘For the next four years the brave Republicans in this room will be at the heart of the effort to oppose the radical Democrats, the fake news media and their toxic cancel culture.
‘Something new to our ears, cancel culture,’ he joked.
‘And I want you to know that I’m going to continue to fight right by your side, we will do what we’ve done right from the beginning, which is win.’
He added: ‘The Republican Party is united. The only division is between a handful of Washington D.C. establishment political hacks, and everybody else all over the country.’