House Speaker Paul D. Ryan disinvited Donald Trump from a joint appearance over the weekend and said he was “sickened” by the GOP presidential nominee’s words, but he stopped short of severing ties with Mr. Trump as he tries to chart a middle ground.
Mr. Ryan does not want to offend enthusiastic Trump supporters critical to GOP efforts to hold onto the House in November’s elections. He also wants to distance the party from the nominee’s vulgar comments about attempting to seduce a married women 11 years ago.
Mr. Ryan was supposed to share the stage with Mr. Trump for the first time on the campaign trail Saturday, but instead found himself telling voters to try to separate the Trump circus from his own efforts.
“There is a bit of an elephant in this room,” Mr. Ryan said at the rally he held, sans Mr. Trump, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
“It’s a troubling situation. I’m serious, it is,” Mr. Ryan said. “I meant what I said and it is still how I feel, but that is not what we’re here to talk about today.”
A day earlier, as the videotape emerged showing Mr. Trump bragging about groping women, Mr. Ryan said he felt “sickened by what I heard.”
“Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified. I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests.”
The Trump-Ryan courtship has been awkward from the start.
“This is not a marriage, for there is no love, no romance, no embrace,” Pat Buchanan, a two-time presidential candidate, said before the Trump tape emerged. “This is a limited liability corporation, a temporary partnership between two men with common interests.”
Mr. Ryan, Mitt Romney’s 2012 vice presidential pick, was elected House speaker in October of last year, four months after Mr. Trump announced he was running for the White House.
For a month after Mr. Trump sewed up the nomination, Mr. Ryan still refused to endorse him.
Both men appeared to be engaged in a power struggle, with Mr. Ryan saying Mr. Trump needed to make clear he embraced conservative policies, and Mr. Trump countering that Mr. Ryan should respect the party voters who gave him the nomination.
Mr. Ryan’s measured rhetorical style is galaxies apart from Mr. Trump’s brash, extemporaneous, approach to politics.
It is perhaps just a big a gulf on policy, where Mr. Ryan is his party’s chief advocate for free trade and one of its biggest boosters for legalizing illegal immigrants. Mr. Trump won the nomination by opposing both of those.
For now, Mr. Buchanan, said both men appear to have calculated that the pluses of their partnership outweigh the minuses.
“Both agree taxes should be cut, Supreme Court justices should be in the mold of [the late Antonin] Scalia, border security is an imperative, the U.S. economy is over-regulated, and the Republican Party needs both its libertarian, small-government, balanced-budget wing, as well as its vast populist and nationalist wing, if it is ever to become again America’s Party,” he said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who stands to reclaim the speaker’s gavel if the GOP stumbles, cast the election as a major choice for voters.
“I hope that we can take this debate to a place where the American people are not disgusted and turned off by what’s happening in the campaign but instead inspired by it,” she said.