Is Speaker Paul Ryan extending an olive branch to Donald Trump by acknowledging his role as leader of the party by saying he would step down as convention chair if Trump asked?
Or is Ryan simply bowing to reality?
The reaction from all but a handful of congressional Republicans to Ryan’s statement that he wasn’t yet ready to endorse Trump has been uniformly negative. Two of his most loyal allies have called him out for not endorsing the nominee of the Republican Party, and he’s probably gotten an earful from other members in private.
This statement from Ryan about the serving as convention chair at the pleasure of Trump may be a signal his position on a Trump endorsement is softening.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said Monday that if Donald Trump wants him to step down as a co-chairman of the GOP convention, he will respect his wishes.
“He’s the nominee. I’ll do whatever he wants with respect to the convention,” Ryan said when asked about that scenario in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Ryan said he hopes he and Trump can begin to get to know each other when they meet later this week.
“I just want to get to know the guy … we just don’t know each other,” said Ryan, who delivered a political bombshell last Thursday when he said he wasn’t ready yet to support his party’s presumptive nominee.
“I never said never. I just said (not) at this point. I wish I had more time to get to know him before this happened. We just didn’t,” he said.
Ryan said his comments last week were him simply speaking his mind. He dismissed the criticism from Trump supporter Sarah Palin that he has his eye on the White House in 2020.
“I would not have become speaker of the House if I had 2020 aspirations. If I really wanted to run for president, I could have run in 2012 and 2016. The speaker is not exactly a good stepping stone for president. I think people who know me know that is not my aspiration,” said Ryan.
Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee who picked Ryan as his running mate, is being courted to reconsider jumping into this year’s presidential race as an independent candidate, according to some media reports.
But Ryan said Monday that a third-party or independent bid by conservatives in 2016 “would be a disaster for our party. I have communicated that to plenty of people.”
The speaker said that in taking his stance on Trump his goal is to work toward real unity, and not “fake” unity.
“We have right now a disunified Republican Party. We shouldn’t sweep it under the rug without addressing it. That would be to our detriment in the fall,” said Ryan, speaking in an interview that had been scheduled before Trump became the presumptive GOP nominee.
Once Ryan realized he had very little leverage to get Trump to accept his legislative agenda, it became a matter of how best to exit the quagmire he placed himself in with the least possible damage.
But don’t expect an immediate endorsement of Trump by Ryan following their scheduled meeting on Thursday. The two men may emerge from the meeting saying nice things about each other and promising unity, but Ryan is likely to stop short of an outright endorsement.
Unless Trump is dead set on humiliating Ryan, a few weeks will pass before the speaker comes around.