I watched the CNN town hall with Donald Trump and his family on Tuesday night. Then I annotated it. And the one thing that stood out very clear to me was this: Ivanka Trump is not only well-spoken and impressive but is a natural at handling tough questions with aplomb and skill.
Two passages, in particular, stood out to me.
Here's the first, when moderator Anderson Cooper asked why Ivanka missed the deadline to register as a Republican in New York:
COOPER: Ivanka, Eric, it's no surprise, I got to ask you, there was … news just this week that both of you were not registered to vote in the primary. What happened?
IVANKA TRUMP: Well, I'm an independent, and I've always voted based on the candidate as opposed to based on the party, and it was actually a very interesting experience. So, we're not a family of politicians. We haven't been in politics very long.
And, here's the second — a question from the crowd:
QUESTION: Hi, Ivanka. You and Chelsea Clinton are personal friends. Has the campaign put a strain on your friendship? And with both you and Chelsea working on your prospective parents' campaigns, is there a common ground where you guys can kind of find an issue to agree on? And do you think you will still be friends with her after this election cycle?
IVANKA TRUMP: Well, look, we're children and we love our parents, so that's the great equalizer and that's the great common ground. So I'm incredibly proud of my father. I'm amazed and truly in awe of what he's accomplished and what he's accomplished throughout the course of his life up until this point. But, you know, the last 10 months have really been a whole different level. So I think that she would probably say the same about her mother, so she's probably very proud of her mother, and we certainly would share that, I would think.
Neither of those are easy questions to answer — particularly when your dad, who is also leading the GOP presidential race, is sitting on stage with you. And Ivanka hit both of them out of the park.
On the first, Ivanka takes a question that amounts to "How could you let this happen?" and pivots easily — and seamlessly — to an explanation of her desire to choose the candidate rather than the party, a sentiment that will get lots and lots of heads nodding. Then she notes that the other reason she missed the party switch deadline is because "we're not a family of politicians" -- a pitch-perfect echo of her father's outsider message.
On the second, Ivanka is asked a question that could be very uncomfortable: What's it like to be friends with Chelsea Clinton when your parents are savaging one another day in and day out? Again, Ivanka nails it. "We're children and we love our parents, so that's the great equalizer and that's the great common ground," she said. Boom. Who is against kids loving their parents and being proud of them?
One of the hallmarks of very talented politicians is to take questions, issues and policies that have the potential to be very divisive and guide the conversation to a common ground you either didn't know existed or simply hadn't thought of before. In both of those answers, Ivanka does exactly that and, best of all, you never see the hard work and practice that goes on behind the scenes to make it all seem so effortless.
She is, as has been often pointed out, the polar opposite of her father in that regard. Where he is bravado and threat, she is cool and soothing. Where he is divisive, she is uniting. It's what leads so many people who dislike Donald Trump to admit that his daughter is very impressive and wonder why she isn't the presidential candidate instead. (She'll turn 35 — presidential age — in October.)
Ivanka, herself, has been somewhat coy about her interest in a political career. "It's not something I've ever been inclined to do, but I'm 34, so who knows?" she told Town & Country magazine (!) in December. "At this point I would never even contemplate it, but that doesn't mean that when I'm 50 I won't have a change of heart."
Judging by how she has handled herself in this campaign, Ivanka would make a terrific politician. And, yes, a better one than her dad.