- The Washington Times - Monday, July 18, 2016

CLEVELAND — House Speaker Paul D. Ryan opened a new break Monday with his party’s next leader, Donald Trump, saying he’s “not my kind of conservative” — just a day before Mr. Ryan will have to take the stage to defend Mr. Trump in a highly anticipated speech at Republicans’ convention here.

Mr. Ryan has perhaps the trickiest job of any of those speaking at the gathering, needing to project party unity even as he vehemently disagrees with Mr. Trump on big issues, and many of his own troops in Congress would prefer to keep Mr. Trump, their presidential nominee, at arm’s length in the coming campaign.

“He’s not my kind of conservative, but I come from a different part and wing of the party,” Mr. Ryan told reporters at a lunch hosted by The Wall Street Journal — though the Wisconsin Republican did add that he views Mr. Trump as a conservative of some sort, though coming from a very different ideological path.

The relationship between Mr. Ryan and Mr. Trump is perhaps the most important one in the GOP heading into November’s elections.

One of them is the polite young star who was vice presidential nominee in 2012 — a free market, pro-immigration, lifelong politico. The other is a brash billionaire businessman who crashed the GOP nominating process this year, forcing it to acknowledge the large number of voters who are skeptical of trade deals and who want to see a stiff crackdown on immigration.

Analysts said Mr. Ryan, who temporized for weeks before endorsing Mr. Trump, can serve as a bridge for the two wings of the party the speaker talked about Monday.

“He is a very important character. He binds together the remnants of the old party and the new order that is being born,” said Michael McKenna, a GOP strategist. “He is overall a force for good, but the new regime will never embrace him because of his ties to the past. He himself seems to sense his role in this story. He is reluctant to release the past or to acknowledge the future, even as he helps bring it about.”

Mr. Ryan is slated to speak Tuesday night along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and several other senators.

Some speakers at the convention will struggle to fully voice support for Mr. Trump, who has upended traditional GOP establishment orthodoxy by calling for strict enforcement of immigration laws, including a border wall with Mexico, rethinking support for free trade deals and a temporary ban on Muslims being admitted to the U.S.

Mr. Ryan, however, will draw more scrutiny than those other skeptics. As speaker of the House, he is the highest-ranking Republican in government, and he and Mr. Trump spent the last two months in a tense, public battle for leverage over the direction of the party.

Mr. Ryan plans to focus his speech on policy, saying he wants “less personality contests and more ideas contests.”

Mr. Ryan earlier this month held a televised town hall with CNN, where he fielded repeated questions from New Yorkers who identified themselves as Republican but had biting criticisms of both the party and its future presidential nominee.

House GOP agenda

Mr. Ryan didn’t shy away from areas where he disagrees with Mr. Trump, but said congressional Republicans are more likely to advance their agenda with Mr. Trump in the White House than with likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Still, as a hedge, Mr. Ryan and House Republicans are producing their own agenda they say they’ll campaign on this fall.

And Mr. Ryan sent out a fundraising plea on behalf of House Republicans Monday, and didn’t mention Mr. Trump’s name in it once. Instead, Mr. Ryan said it was congressional Republicans who would be called on to stop a President Hillary Clinton.

“No matter what, we must do everything in our power to protect our majority in Congress,” he said, calling his troops “last lines of defense against the possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidency.”

Rep. Greg Walden, the Oregon Republican who is overseeing the House GOP’s campaign to protect its majority this fall, also failed to mention Mr. Trump in his address to delegates Monday afternoon on the convention’s first day.

Mr. Ryan is eight months into his tenure as speaker, and despite hiccups over the budget and spending, he has overseen a steady stream of significant bills on serious issues, including a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind education law, a new federal policy toward opioid abuse and legislation to spend $1.1 billion combatting the Zika virus.

But unrest showed among some Republicans attending the convention.

“Right now I don’t think he’s doing a very good job,” said Michele Nix, vice chairwoman of the North Carolina GOP, who said Mr. Ryan’s lukewarm defense of Mr. Trump hasn’t been helpful to Republicans ahead of November.

“Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee, and we have to be a united party, unless Paul Ryan wants Hillary Clinton to be his boss,” she said. “What I would like to hear from Paul Ryan is that he’ll support the nominee and that he’s going to help make America great again.”

Alabama delegate Perry O. Hooper Jr., state co-chairman of the Trump campaign and a member of the RNC’s permanent organizing committee for the convention, said voters have spoken, and they back Mr. Trump’s vision for the GOP.

“Trump’s position has to win out. That’s what the voters want,” he said.

But Steve King, a delegate from Wisconsin who also has repeatedly served as co-chairman of Mr. Ryan’s campaigns, said that the speaker was performing well in one of the toughest jobs in politics, and has found ways to support Mr. Trump.

“He’s a big fan of [vice presidential nominee Gov.] Mike Pence, and he’s endorsed Donald Trump — what more can you ask?” he said.

He predicted that Mr. Ryan’s convention speech would help to further unite the party behind Mr. Trump. He said that he expected Mr. Ryan to talk about the GOP agenda of fighting poverty, providing for the national security and improving the economy.

“Trump agrees with these things,” said Mr. King.

Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this article.


• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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