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House Speaker Paul Ryan Says He Can't Endorse Trump Yet

Paul Ryan said that Trump would have to work to unite the GOP to earn his backing, as some candidates grow worried about Trump's affect on congressional races.

by Sarah Mimms
May 5 2016, 9:05pm

Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, his party's vice presidential candidate in 2012, said on CNN Thursday that he isn't ready to support presumptive nominee Donald Trump — at least not yet.

"I'm just not ready to do that at this point," Ryan told CNN's Jake Tapper on Thursday, when asked if he could support Trump.

Ryan added that he hopes to endorse Trump in the future, adding "I want to do that. But right now ... at this point, I'm just not there right now."

Ryan said that he thinks Trump needs "to do more" to unify the Republican party before he earns the speaker's endorsement.

The Trump campaign responded with a statement on Thursday afternoon.

"I am not ready to support Speaker Ryan's agenda," Trump said. "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!"

Related: Paul Ryan Reminds Everyone That Politics Don't Have to Be This Nasty

Ryan's comments come just a day after his counterpart in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, endorsed Trump and as Republican party chairman Reince Priebus has called on members to get on the Trump train.

But with the majority in the Senate, and potentially the House, on the line in 2016, vulnerable members are largely holding their tongues, worried that having Trump at the top of the ticket in November could hurt their reelection chances. Comments like Ryan's on Thursday will give them some breathing room to distance themselves from Trump, if need be.

McConnell has also privately told members in tough reelection races to stay away from Trump if they have to. And in a statement on Wednesday, he also called on the presumptive nominee "to unite our party around our goals".

One of those candidates, Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain, appears to be growing increasingly worried. While he has downplayed Trump's potential impact on his reelection bid in public, telling VICE News earlier this year that Arizonans know him too well for a presidential candidate to affect his race, he told quite a different story in a private meeting with supporters in Arizona last month. "If Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket, here in Arizona, with over 30 percent of the vote being the Hispanic vote, no doubt that this may be the race of my life," McCain said, according to audio of the event obtained by Politico.

Tellingly, when asked Thursday whether he worried that Trump could hurt down-ballot candidates in the House and Senate, Ryan demurred.

"I just don't know," he said. "One thing I think you can predict of this year it is going to be unpredictable. ... I just think you always run like everything's on the line."

Related: Paul Ryan Really, Seriously, Absolutely Does Not Want to Be President

While many members of Congress have merely kept quiet about Trump's candidacy, Senator Ben Sasse published a scathing open letter Wednesday night, saying that there are "dumpster fires in my town more popular" than Trump and likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Ryan has declined to specifically criticize Trump in the past, but has given a number of speeches in 2016, encouraging Republicans and Democrats to tone down their rhetoric and learn to "disagree without being disagreeable".

As Trump continued to rise in the Republican race for president, many establishment Republicans pointed to Ryan as a potential white knight who could sweep in at the Republican convention and become the party's nominee. Former House Speaker John Boehner, who preceded Ryan in the office, endorsed that idea earlier this year.

But Ryan has said numerous times that he has no interest in being a presidential candidate this year, and he reiterated that on Thursday.

Follow Sarah Mimms on Twitter: @SarahMMimms