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Melania Trump Will Always Choose Son Barron over Politics: 'She Dislikes a Petting Zoo' (Exclusive)

A source tells PEOPLE that former President Donald Trump "is a loner horse and can function fine without his family," although Melania knows there are times when she'll need to show face

<p>Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images</p> Melania Trump stands behind husband Donald Trump at a 2016 fundraiser

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Melania Trump stands behind husband Donald Trump at a 2016 fundraiser

Donald Trump's fight for the White House isn’t quite the family affair it was the first time around, with wife Melania and daughter Ivanka noticeably distanced from the 2024 campaign trail. But sources tell PEOPLE that the former president, 77, is generally okay with them prioritizing their personal lives over politics, so long as they show face when it matters most.

“Donald loves to be out with the people and despite his burning legal and financial issues, going out on the campaign trail makes him happy,” a political source tells PEOPLE. “He is a loner horse and can function fine without his family, although he is happy when they can accompany him.”

Related: 4 Times Melania and Donald Trump Clashed at the White House, According to New Book

A social and political source adds that Melania, 52, is present when she's needed but likes to stay out of the campaign rallies and gatherings — even those held at the couple's Mar-a-Lago home.

“Melania dislikes a petting zoo,” the source says. “She goes when she has to but if it’s not essential she prefers to stay out of the public eye. When an event is packed full of campaigning types and crowds of people even at Mar-a-Lago, she tries to opt out.”

Sources have routinely told PEOPLE that she would much prefer to spend time with her son, Barron Trump, or father, Viktor Knavs, over courting strangers.

<p>Chip Somodevilla/Getty</p> Melania and Barron Trump stand together as former President Donald Trump accepts the Republican presidential nomination in 2020

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Melania and Barron Trump stand together as former President Donald Trump accepts the Republican presidential nomination in 2020

The former first lady was on hand, however, at a recent dinner held at the members-only Palm Beach resort, where the couple hosted far-right Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a close ally to Vladimir Putin.

“She is more comfortable at this type of engagement than a hard core rally or campaign evening,” the source says of Melania, who wore a white pantsuit as she mingled with guests, including Orbán. “She knows there are certain events she must attend and Donald is okay with her going to those, but not everything. He does well on his own. So many people want to talk to him and be around him that he doesn’t dwell on who is not there.”

The source says when attending these events, Melania is “lovely and charming,” and nobody has a “bad word to say about her.”

Related: Melania Trump Remains 'Angry' at Donald over Stormy Daniels Drama, Is Focused on Her Son and Herself: Sources

<p>Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images</p> Melania Trump hosts a black tie dinner at the White House in 2017

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Melania Trump hosts a black tie dinner at the White House in 2017

Melania began this year in a period of grief, after her mother, Amalija Knavs, died in January at age 78.

Related: Melania Trump Says She's on 'Journey of Loss and Grief' After Death of 'Beloved' Mother Amalija Knavs

The former first lady has also been focused lately on looking at colleges for Barron, according to another social source.

“Melania’s main job is taking care of Barron, and I think it’s possible that she will follow him wherever he goes to school,” the social source tells PEOPLE. “Barron is shy and reserved, and she has been a good mother to him all of these years.”

Barron, who grew up at least partly in the White House but lives primarily outside of the spotlight, turns 18 later this month.

Related: Barron Trump: Everything to Know About Donald Trump's Youngest Son

The source adds: “Melania is all about Barron and her family. She has always been family-oriented, and in addition to some of the charity work she has done, staying ahead of family issues is her priority. She has a good life.”

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And while it's well established that Melania and Donald have disagreements — particularly in the wake of his recent legal battles, including a sexual abuse case involving former columnist E. Jean Carroll and charges over alleged hush money he paid adult film star Stormy Daniels — the public relationship between the two remains as it has been.

“Most of the time they put up a united front,” the source tells PEOPLE. “In the end, Melania loves her lifestyle and is well taken care of now and later.”

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