Paul Ryan is having a hard time right now. Three days after Donald Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” remarks were revealed to the world, people are starting to notice that the speaker of the House still supports Donald Trump.
But Ryan, an industrious man who also continued to support Trump after Sunday’s disastrous debate performance, has a solution!
On a conference call with House Republicans on Monday morning, Ryan reportedly told them that he would be focusing his electoral efforts on ensuring that Republicans retain control of Congress and would not be defending Trump. Ryan did not tell this private meeting that he would no longer be backing Trump, according to various media accounts of the call. Ryan also reportedly told these members that they had to do what was right in their own individual districts, apparently feeling that his Wisconsin 1st District needed to see him vote for Trump. “You all need to do what’s best for you and your district,” reportedly said the Trump backer.
“The speaker is going to spend the next month focused entirely on protecting our congressional majorities,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in a statement, confirming what was being reported about the conference call.
There had been reports that Ryan said on the call that he was conceding that Hillary Clinton would win the presidential race and Trump would lose, which could be read as a signal of him giving up on Trump’s candidacy. But Ryan’s staff pushed back hard against any reports that he had done any such thing, with a spokesperson telling the Guardian’s Sabrina Siddiqui, “He said explicitly on the call he is not conceding.”
Indeed, Ryan did not revoke his endorsement on the call. “He didn’t say anything about the endorsement,” a source told BuzzFeed of Ryan.
After the call, Trump’s staff confirmed that Ryan did indeed still endorse Donald Trump for president. “There is no update in his position at this time,” Strong said regarding an endorsement.
Despite his continued support of Donald Trump, it would make sense for Paul Ryan to focus his attention on the battle to hold Congress. According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Monday, survey respondents preferred Democratic control of Congress to Republican control by 49 percent to 42. In that same poll, Trump—who retains the support of Paul Ryan—was trailing by 11 points in a four-way race and 14 points in a head-to-head race.
In addition to facing pressure to unendorse Trump—pressure which Ryan seems determined to overcome—the speaker also is facing a backlash from conservatives who feel he isn’t doing enough to adequately express his support for Trump. At a Saturday campaign event in Wisconsin, from which Trump was disinvited, Ryan was heckled by his fellow Trump supporters. During the caucus conference call, meanwhile, BuzzFeed reported:
Several members pushed back on Ryan, angry with him and arguing that House Republicans should be supporting Trump and working to get a Republican in the White House. A source on the call said those that expressed support for Trump were from deeply red states.
Ryan, who has publicly said he will be voting for Donald Trump next month and has yet to change that stance, will have the rest of Monday off for Columbus Day.
Update, Oct. 10, 2016, 1:50 p.m.: Now Donald Trump has expressed his disappointment with his supporter Paul Ryan, presumably for Ryan’s inadequate level of support.
Update, Oct. 10, 2016, 2:10 p.m.: Donald Trump supporter Paul Ryan’s staff has responded to Trump’s latest criticism of his continued endorser.