The idea of Ivanka Trump running against Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tickles plenty of liberals. After all, “Liddle Marco” went from mocking Donald Trump’s penis to being one of his most vociferous apologists. The New York Times’ Frank Bruni celebrated the possibility that Rubio “would have done all that shape-shifting, summoned all that sycophancy, and sold out for naught.”
Politico reported that Trump ally Tom Barrack is pressing donors to build an infrastructure to lure her into the race, and her husband and fellow nepotism appointee Jared Kushner is apparently “working single-mindedly to protect and promote his wife’s ‘political career.'” Perpetual Trump critic Rick Wilson said if Ivanka runs, Rubio is “dead.” She and her husband also recently purchased a $30 million plot of land for a home on Indian Creek Island, which is known as the “billionaire’s bunker.”
Certainly, one of the most servile Republicans losing at the hands of a Trump would trigger tremendous schadenfreude. But Ivanka’s public persona and track record as a both a campaign surrogate and White House official mean she may not be a guaranteed heir to her father’s #MAGA crown.
The biggest and most obvious part of Trump’s appeal that Ivanka lacks is his inherently masculine showboating. Trump’s macho act is a facade but much of it is predicated on the Republican idea of an alpha male. His demeaning of “nasty” women as getting “schlonged” and his deriding of male politicians as “low-energy” Jeb Bush or “pencil-neck” Adam Schiff are a matter of asserting dominance over his opponents.
Conversely, Ivanka has consistently crafted her brand to focus on women’s empowerment, even if it’s as facile as her father’s cosplay masculinity. From her books about women in the workplace to her fashion brand before she entered the White House, Ivanka focused on softening the Trump image to be more compatible with her own sensibilities.
She took that same approach when she was on the campaign trail in 2016, mostly focusing on issues that mattered to her. Neither the speech she gave to introduce her father’s campaign announcement nor her 2016 speech at the Republican National Convention address mentioned themes from Trump’s “Make America Great Again” mantra like immigration or trade. Rather, she most frequently talked about equal pay and child care. Not exactly “Build the Wall and Make Mexico Pay for It.”
Once in the White House, Ivanka cultivated an image of herself as a moderating force on her father, who tsk-tsked her dad’s pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords and, along with Kushner scuttled an order that would have overturned an Obama-era executive order on LGBTQ rights. Jared and Ivanka’s supposed dismay at the president’s antics was such a common feature of stories about the administration it became a mocking meme on the left.
Her father’s political team seemed to recognize Ivanka’s priorities were more in line with Aspen than Allegheny County; one aide told the Atlantic that the rhetoric “wasn’t about Trump’s vision” as much as “It was about Ivanka’s ability to feel comfortable in her New York circle.” Meanwhile, allies of Steve Bannon, Trump’s nationalist id, referred to her and Kushner’s circle as “West Wing Democrats.”
The Scarlet Red Hat stained with the blood from the Capitol riot means Ivanka can’t go back to Park Avenue (at least for now). But she also likely doesn’t have enough immediate credibility with the faithful to be seen as a worthy vessel for the movement. An Axios and SurveyMonkey poll from Axios showed her brother Don Jr. polling far ahead of his sister among Republican voters, which is consistent with other polls.
Perhaps reading the tea leaves, Ivanka has tried to pivot more toward the right flank of the GOP. After she missed the deadline to register as a Republican before New York’s 2016 primary, she now declares herself a “proud Trump Republican.” Where she once secretly met with Cecile Richards, the former head of Planned Parenthood, she now calls herself “pro-life, and unapologetically so.” In 2020, she campaigned not just for her father but for Republicans in Georgia as well. Even Bannon has put aside his “many differences” with Ivanka and said she was “the second most fire-breathing populist” in the White House and that she should challenge Rubio if he didn’t object to the election results.
But all of this might be too late for Ivanka. Challenging an incumbent is incredibly difficult. Beyond that, a Quinnipiac poll from last year showed, while he is polling at 40 percent statewide, 73 percent of Republicans approve of Rubio. And he has also shown himself to be a team player for Trump, cheering Trump supporters who harassed a Biden campaign bus in Texas. Rubio is also based in Miami-Dade, the state’s most populous county that also has more registered Republicans than anywhere else in the state. That combined with his Cuban-American heritage and foreign policy credentials gives him a strong base of support, to the extent Trump largely tailored his Latin America policy to appease Rubio.
Of course, her father took a similar trajectory from being a New York Democrat to swallowing the Republican Party whole. But without the MAGA winds behind her, “Liddle Marco” might be a little too big for Ivanka.