Melania Trump, whose appearances often generate public interest, strode into the Capitol Tuesday night with the public eager to read into whatever signals the President might exchange with his wife during the State of the Union speech.
They were probably disappointed.
With the exception of her unorthodox decision to abandon her husband's vehicle for the ride from the White House to the Capitol building -- and instead travel there in her own motorcade with her guests, arriving almost one hour before him -- Melania Trump's interaction with the President was, essentially, State of the Union status quo.
There was no lengthy back-and-forth between Trump and the first lady, no adoring gaze that lingered, no great gesture of introduction -- outside of the very opening line of his speech, in which Melania Trump's title was wedged between that of the vice president, members of Congress and her fellow Americans. There wasn't even any of Trump's signature effusive praise, the heap of compliments he can be so generous with when he wants to single out a particularly "terrific" person.
In October of last year, Trump was happy to tout his wife's popularity, telling a roomful of guests at a formal White House Historical Association dinner that Melania Trump was "the star of the Trump family," adding "they love her out there, they're loving Melania." (That was an upgrade from July, when he told an Iowa crowd, "they're liking her, they're liking her.")
In the couple's defense, the State of the Union might not have been the place to exchange any more than the brief acknowledgment at the top of Trump's 80-minute long remarks. Barack Obama rarely made mention of Michelle Obama during his State of the Union addresses, with the exception of pointing out the progress of her initiatives, such as "Joining Forces," which supported military families, and "Let's Move," which encouraged healthier habits for children.
First ladies do, however, get a customary standing ovation from the VIP State of the Union audience, as Melania Trump received on Tuesday night. In her bright, white Christian Dior pantsuit, with her perfectly coiffed hair and bronzed skin, Melania Trump accepted the gesture with a smile, raising her right arm and bending it at the elbow for a short wave.
By the end of the evening though, the first lady had rejoined her husband, a White House official told CNN, and the two rode together in the President's limo from Capitol Hill, down Pennsylvania Avenue, and back to the White House.