Throughout his rise to the presidency, Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka has been one of his greatest assets.

For 18 months, the President-elect's second eldest child served to polish his image in the wake of every new scandal, bizarre comment and widely-reported tweet he made.

Intelligent, beautiful and successful, Ivanka was widely credited with bringing out her father's softer side, and was so frequently in the spotlight on his behalf that she would later be described as taking the role of a "proxy wife" and "de facto First Lady" in his campaign.

While she refuted such characterisations as "deeply offensive" and "sexist", there's no doubt she played a more powerful and visible role in her father's new-found political career than anyone in the Trump family - including his third wife Melania - and she's long been tipped to be one of his closest advisers.

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Now word has slipped that the incoming first daughter may be playing a more prominent role in Mr Trump's administration than we thought, with rumours she's eyeing an office suite in the East Wing traditionally reserved for the First Lady.

That "de facto First Lady" label may be a reality after all.

HOW WOULD IVANKA FARE AS 'FIRST LADY'?

Ivanka has had a bigger profile than her stepmother over Donald Trump's campaign. Photo / AP
Ivanka has had a bigger profile than her stepmother over Donald Trump's campaign. Photo / AP

In September last year, Melania told People magazine that her primary role was not to serve as a campaigner or a political figure, but as a mother to Barron.

"My husband is travelling all the time," she said. "Barron needs somebody as a parent, so I am with him all the time."

Ivanka, by comparison, has taken an active role in her father's political life over the past 18 months, and even more so since joining his transition team.

She already seems poised to take on some of the traditional First Lady's duties, like serving as de facto hostess for meetings with dignitaries.

She's met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and, more recently, had a sit-down with tech executives from Facebook, Apple and other Silicone Valley giants.

Earlier this month, she met with former vice president Al Gore to discuss climate change, and facilitated a subsequent meeting between Mr Gore and her father.

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Out of all Donald Trump's children, Ivanka would be most likely to enter the White House. Photo / AP
Out of all Donald Trump's children, Ivanka would be most likely to enter the White House. Photo / AP

Ivanka has never explicitly denied having political ambitions, with speculation that this could be a way of priming her to run for the top job herself one day.

It wouldn't be out of character - she often stresses in interviews that her father always taught her to keep her expectations at the highest level.

In a 60 Minutes interview after the election, Lesley Stahl asked the eldest Trump children if they were going to run the family business.

Donald Jr and Eric nodded in confirmation, but Ivanka was a little more vague.

"People think that you're going to be part of the administration, Ivanka," Stahl offered.

"I'm - no. I'm going to be a daughter," she replied. "But I've said throughout the campaign that I am very passionate about certain issues. And that I want to fight for them.

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"Wage equality, childcare. These are things that are very important for me. I'm very passionate about education. Really promoting more opportunities for women. So you know, there're a lot of things that I feel deeply, strongly about. But not in a formal administrative capacity."

Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, are reportedly eyeing a house in Washington. Photo / AP
Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, are reportedly eyeing a house in Washington. Photo / AP

More recently, it was reported that Ms Trump and her husband Jared Kushner were eyeing a house in Washington.

Mr Kushner is expected to have a key role in the Trump White House.

While Ivanka's profile is significantly more visible than her stepmother's, it's also less outrageous than her father's.

Through Mr Trump's campaign, she avoided attacking his rival Hillary Clinton, saying: "As a mother myself with three young children I know how hard it is to work while raising a family. I also know how privileged I am."

She's rarely prone to embarrassing gaffes, and even maintained a smooth friendship with Chelsea Clinton, despite the increasingly aggressive election campaign.

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The Washington Post has gone as far as suggesting Ivanka "may be the most powerful first lady ever", noting that she appears poised to be an adviser, advocate and hostess all at once.

While the traditional role of the First Lady was to host events and attend parties, it's now more common for them to work in policy of their choosing, as was the case with Michelle Obama and women's education.

That said, some of the causes Ivanka has championed in the past - climate change, childcare and women's rights - may put her at odds with the Republican party.

IS IVANKA EVEN ALLOWED TO TAKE THE REINS?

Ivanka taking on this role isn't as outlandish as it may sound. After all, it certainly wouldn't be the first time a First Lady was not the spouse of the President.

In 1857, 15th President and lifelong bachelor James Buchanan promoted his niece Harriet Lane to the position.

The 33rd President of the United Sates Harry Truman had his daughter Margaret step into the role, because his wife did not enjoy the spotlight.

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The daughters of Benjamin Barrow and Woodrow Wilson took on the role when their mothers died.

President-elect Donald Trump. Photo / AP
President-elect Donald Trump. Photo / AP

However, there is a potential hurdle to Ivanka having too-powerful a role in the White House.

A statute passed in 1967 states that no public official - whether they be President or in a low-level managerial position - may hire or promote a relative. This law would also apply to Mr Kushner; it specifies that "son-in-law" constitutes a relative.

That said, there may be ways around it. The law states that any appointee who violates the law will not be paid for their work, which raises the possibility of Mr Kushner or Mr Trump's children serving the administration without being paid.

Mr Trump's transition team is well aware of this. Kellyanne Conway, one of his top advisers, said the law applies to Cabinet members but there may be a leeway for West Wing appointments.

"The anti-nepotism law has an exception if you want to work in the West Wing because the President is able to appoint his own staff. So, of course, this came about to stop maybe family members serving on the Cabinet," she said on MSNBC's Morning Joe.

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"But the President does have discretion to choose a staff of his liking. And so if that is true, and that legal advice holds, that will open up a realm of responsibilities."

In other words, she says, anything's possible.

Of course, the idea of 'First Lady Ivanka' is not exactly traditional. But then again, neither is the Trump family.

Other than supporting her husband's political campaign, Melania Trump has never expressed a powerful interest in politics.

Other than two big campaign speeches - one of which became a global embarrassment after it appeared she had copied heavily from Michelle Obama's 2008 Democratic National Convention speech - Melania has remained relatively quiet.

Shortly after the 2016 election, it was confirmed that she would remain in Trump Tower in New York to look after the pair's 10-year-old son Barron.

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