House Speaker Paul Ryan is refusing to support Donald Trump as the Republican nominee for president, insisting Thursday that the businessman must do more to unify the GOP.
The surprise declaration from Ryan on CNN amounted to a stunning rebuke of Trump from the Republican Party’s highest-ranking officeholder.
“I’m just not ready to do that at this point. I’m not there right now,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “And I hope to. And I want to, but I think what is required is that we unify this party.”
Even in an election cycle that’s exposed extreme and very public divisions within a GOP, Ryan’s decision to withhold his support from Trump was remarkable, as the GOP’s top elected leader, second in line to the presidency, turned his back on his own party’s presumptive nominee.
Ryan had maintained his silence since Trump effectively clinched the nomination with a commanding win in Indiana on Tuesday that forced his two remaining rivals from the race. Other Republican leaders, including Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, offered their grudging support for Trump, and Ryan had seemed likely to eventually do the same.
Instead he balked, in comments that could have more to do with his own political future and potential run for president in 2020.
“We will need a standard-bearer that can unify all Republicans, all conservatives, all wings of our party, and then go to the country with an appealing agenda that can be appealing to independents and disaffected Democrats,” Ryan said. “And we have work to do on this front, and I think our nominee has to lead in that effort.”
Ryan made clear he won’t be supporting Hillary Clinton and that he wants to come around to supporting Trump
“If we don’t unify all wings of this party, we’re not going to win this election,” he said. “So the question is, ‘What can you do to unify all wings of the party to go forward?'”
Ryan himself, his party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, had been seen as a possible “white knight” candidate who could emerge as an alternative to Trump at a contested convention. He called a press conference last month to rule himself out, and Trump now looks set to gather the 1,237 delegate votes needed to clinch the nomination ahead of the July convention in Cleveland, ruling out the possibility of a contested convention.
Ryan will serve as the convention chairman, presiding over portions of the proceedings that will elevate Trump to the official status of nominee.