Ryan stumping for House GOP, not for Trump

Published 9:27 am Tuesday, October 11, 2016

CHESTER SPRINGS, Pa.  — For Paul Ryan, October is now all about protecting the Republican majority of the House — and his own job as speaker.

The Wisconsin Republican can’t ignore Donald Trump, his party’s bull-in-a-china-shop presidential candidate. Nor can he offend Trump’s millions of voters, whom many House GOP candidates need to survive next month’s elections. Yet amid the remarkable spectacle of the party’s White House nominee and its highest elected official practically at war, Ryan says he’s not going to lift a finger for Trump or even be seen with him.

Instead, Ryan will focus “his entire energy making sure that Hillary Clinton does not get a blank check” with a Democratic Congress if she’s elected president. He made that comment during a conference call with House GOP lawmakers Monday, according to someone on the call.

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A day before last Friday’s release of a 2005 video showing Trump making vulgar boasts about forcing himself on women, Ryan made two campaign stops in eastern Pennsylvania in which he never spoke the words “Donald Trump.” That dramatized how Ryan is trying to guide House candidates through rocky political waters Trump has roiled with regularity.

“We see ourselves in the House as offering ideas and solutions, kind of adding a rudder and a keel to our party,” Ryan said standing alongside the local GOP congressman at J-Tech USA, all but suggesting that such substance and stability was lacking atop the ticket. The company services trucks for highway crews.

Ryan was scheduled to spend this week tending to political events in his home state. He then resumes a feverish coast-to-coast effort to defend GOP control of the House, a tour that was scheduled to cover at least 17 states and 42 cities and might grow.

Republicans have been favored to retain House control in November’s voting, with Democrats needing to gain 30 seats to take charge of the 435-member chamber. But Democratic hopes have grown — and GOP nerves have been frazzled — after two weeks of politically seismic setbacks for Trump, capped by the Trump video.

In Monday’s conference call, jumpy House Republicans heard Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, who heads their campaign organization, say the political situation was deteriorating for the GOP, especially among women, according to two people on the call. Walden urged them to poll frequently and warned that the path to victory for candidates in tight races resembled landing a plane in the fog with a hurricane blowing.

On that same call, Ryan said he would not defend Trump or campaign with him and would focus on protecting the House GOP majority, two listeners said. One said Ryan told Republicans to do what “you think is right personally, and what you need to do politically.”

Trump fired back Tuesday on Twitter.

In one tweet, Trump called Ryan a “very weak and ineffective leader” and accused him of “disloyalty.” In another, Trump complained, “It is hard to do well when Paul Ryan and others give zero support!”