GOP candidates' wives take center stage in presidential debate

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his wife Melania greet reporters in the spin room following a debate sponsored by Fox News at the Fox Theatre on March 3, 2016, in Detroit.

Can you be too hot to be the First Lady?

I'm thinking, of course, of Melania Trump, the 45-year-old, strikingly gorgeous wife of GOP front- runner Donald Trump. Although a lot of folks - especially men - might roar their approval of Melania's smoking hotness moving into the White House - I'm not sure America's ready for that much sizzle.

Former models such as Melania come with baggage - and it's not always the leather variety. In her case, it's racy photos, such as the nude one that graced the cover of British GQ back in 2000. In the multipage spread, Melania looks come hither as she lies on a fur rug while aboard Trump's customized 747 - the one with the 18-karat-gold seat buckles.

Then, there's the shot of her wearing a red thong bikini and high heels while brandishing a chrome pistol. I can't see Melania hosting the annual White House Easter Egg Roll and meeting with school girls around the globe knowing that she's been a-- out for everybody to see.

It could be a thing with guys with allegedly shorter-than-average fingers, but it's safe to assume that The Donald thinks having a hottie wife by his side is an important symbol of power. Throughout history, having access to one hottie woman (or many) has been the standard for male rulers.

It's not as if we haven't had extremely attractive first ladies before. Jacqueline Kennedy immediately comes to mind; Michelle Obama is both beautiful and accomplished - with two Ivy League degrees, I might add. You can even argue that the late Nancy Reagan was once known for her looks and elegant style, based on the outpouring after her recent death.

Given that the spouse of a president doesn't have any official duties, this shouldn't be a campaign issue. But the candidates' wives moved centerstage last week after Trump retweeted a nasty revenge meme skewering opponent Ted Cruz's wife, Heidi. It featured side-by-side photos - one a glamour headshot of Melania juxtaposed with an unflattering, caught-mid-sentence, candid image of Heidi. Under the photos, a caption reads, "The images are worth a thousand words." In a classic Trump move, the billionaire developer shared the tweet after an anti-Trump Super PAC called Make America Awesome posted an unflattering ad on social medial using one of Melania's risque modeling photos.

In the ad, which appeared in advance of the March 22 GOP caucus, Melania lies naked on what looks like the same fur referenced above but this time she's handcuffed to a leather briefcase. The accompanying words read, "Meet Melania Trump. Your next first lady. Or, you could vote for Ted Cruz on Tuesday." The photo for the ad, which was directed at socially conservative Mormons via social media, shows Melania's fetchingly exposed naked hip, leg, and much of her bosom.

The Donald understandably wasn't thrilled to see the racy photos pop up in the midst of his campaign to move wife No. 3 into the White House. So he took to Twitter to complain, "Lyin' Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a GQ shoot in his ad. Be careful, Lyin' Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!"

It's not clear what Trump meant, but it's speculated that it was a thinly veiled reference to a bout with depression that Heidi reportedly had in 2005 during which she was found by police sitting on a highway ramp in Texas with her head buried in her hands. According to the New York Times, an officer took her to an unnamed facility that night because, "I believed that she was a danger to herself."

Trump also might have been referring to a National Enquirer report published last week accusing Cruz of having had multiple extramarital affairs - a claim Cruz has vehemently denounced as "complete and utter lies" planted by Trump. Cruz wrote on Facebook: "These smears are completely false, they're offensive to Heidi and me, they're offensive to our daughters, and they're offensive to everyone Donald continues to personally attack. Donald Trump's consistently disgraceful behavior is beneath the office we are seeking and we are not going to follow."

Trump maintains that he didn't plant the story in the supermarket tab.

"I have nothing to do with the National Enquirer, and unlike Lyin' Ted Cruz, I do not surround myself with political hacks and henchman and then pretend total innocence," Trump said, according to Reuters. "Ted Cruz's problem with the National Enquirer is his and his alone, and while they were right about O.J. Simpson, John Edwards, and many others, I certainly hope they are not right about Lyin' Ted Cruz."

Heidi, a Goldman Sachs investment manager who took leave without pay to campaign for her husband, had been scheduled to travel to the Philadelphia area for a public rally in Haddon Heights on Wednesday afternoon. But that event was postponed. A Cruz campaign spokesman in New Jersey said the senator and his wife decided to campaign together in Wisconsin, which holds its primary Tuesday.

Too bad. I would have relished a chance to ask Heidi to comment on the War-of-the-Wives. It's probably just as well that that won't happen. All it probably would have done is spark another My-Wife-is-Hotter-Than-Yours salvo from Trump, and it's time we moved past that.

armstrj@phillynews.com
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