Speaker of the House and 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said on Thursday that he is “just not ready” to support presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump for the presidency. But he also made it seem as though he would eventually do so.
Sounding as though he was in the fourth stage of grief and understood that he needed to—and would—reach acceptance at some point, Ryan said he couldn’t support Trump, yet.
“I’m just not ready to do that at this point. I’m not there right now,” Ryan told CNN. “And I hope to, though, and I want to, but I think what is required is that we unify this party. And I think that the bulk of the burden on unifying the party will have to come from our presumptive nominee.”
Ryan didn’t quite lay down particular conditions for giving Trump an endorsement, but he indicated in generalities that the real estate mogul would have work to do.
“[Trump] inherits something very special, that’s very special to a lot of us. This is the party of Lincoln and Reagan and Jack Kemp” Ryan said. “And we don’t always nominate a Lincoln or a Reagan every four years, but we hope that our nominee aspires to be Lincoln-or Reagan-esque—that that person advances the principles of our party and appeals to a wide, vast majority of Americans.”
“And so, I think what is necessary to make this work, for this to unify, is to actually take our principles and advance them. And that’s what we want to see. Saying we’re unified doesn’t in and of itself unify us, but actually taking the principles that we all believe in, showing that there’s a dedication to those, and running a principled campaign that Republicans can be proud about and that can actually appeal to a majority of Americans—that, to me, is what it takes to unify this party.”
Ryan was previously critical of Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the country, but when pressed on whether or not Trump needed to reverse that position, his opposition to free trade, and his call to deport 12 million undocumented immigrants in order to win Ryan’s support, the Wisconsin Congressman deferred. “We got work to do,” he said.
Mitt Romney, on whose ticket Ryan ran in 2012, has already said he would not attend this year’s Republican convention in a clear rebuke of Trump. Both of the Republican Party’s living former presidents, George Herbert Walker Bush and George W. Bush, have revealed through spokesmen that they have no plans to endorse Trump. This comes of no surprise, of course, as Trump spent the first half of the GOP primary campaign tormenting Jeb Bush as a weenie and blaming his brother for 9/11.
Ryan’s reluctance to endorse the man who he would be partnering with if his party was to reclaim the White House is a bit more strange, which is probably why he hedged so much. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for example, has said he’d back Trump. From the sound of it, unless Trump alienates him personally in some profound way (always a possibility), Ryan will get there too. Eventually.
Update, May 5, 2016, 6:25 p.m. ET: Maybe I overestimated Donald Trump’s ability to play nice enough to even try to win Ryan’s support. After a spokeswoman went on CNN and downplayed Ryan’s lack of immediate support as not a big deal and something that would eventually get resolved by both parties, the candidate himself issued this statement:
“I am not ready to support Speaker Ryan’s agenda. Perhaps in the future we can work together and come to an agreement about what is best for the American people. They have been treated so badly for so long that it is about time for politicians to put them first!”