By Bonnie K. Goodman
After a couple of days of drama, Republican nominee Donald Trump endorsed Speaker of the House and Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, Arizona Senator John McCain and New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte in their re-election bids for their Congressional and Senate seats. Trump made the endorsements official on Friday evening, Aug. 5, 2016, at a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Trump expressed that he wanted to be a “big tent” Republican like Ronald Reagan in a speech that was rather unusual for Trump in that he read it off prepared remarks.
Trump in announcing his endorsements stated, “This campaign is not about me or any one candidate, it’s about America. I understand and embrace the wisdom of Ronald Reagan’s big tent within the party. So I embrace the wisdom that my 80 percent friend is not my 20 percent enemy.” Trump emphasized that he would need the support of the House and Senate as president.
Then after 10 minutes into his speech, Trump endorsed Speaker Ryan. Trump remarked, “We will have disagreements, but we will disagree as friends and never stop working together toward victory. And very importantly toward real change. So in our shared mission to make America great again, I support and endorse our speaker of the house Paul Ryan.” Trump’s endorsement comes only days before Ryan’s primary on Tuesday, Aug. 9, where he leads his opponent Paul Nehlen by 66 percent.
Continuing Trump endorsed McCain, both have been highly critical of the other. The GOP nominee said, “And while I’m at it, I hold in the highest esteem Senator John McCain for his service to our country in uniform and public office, and I fully support and endorse his reelection Very important. We’ll work together.”
After the rally, Trump’s campaign sent a fundraising email to supporters touting party unity and the endorsements. The email read, “It’s time to unite our Party and deny the third term of Obama. I have officially endorsed Paul Ryan — and together, we will fight for YOU, and together we will Make America Great Again!”
The controversy over the Ryan endorsement commenced on Tuesday, Aug. 2 when Trump spoke to the Washington for an interview. Trump echoed Ryan earlier comments about endorsing him back in May. The GOP nominee said, “I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country. We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet.”
Trump running mate Indiana Governor Mike Pence broke with Trump over the endorsements choosing to endorse Ryan on Wednesday, Aug. 3. Pence endorsed Ryan in a phone interview with Fox News, stating, “I strongly support Paul Ryan, strongly endorse his re-election. He is a longtime friend. He’s a strong conservative leader. I believe we need Paul Ryan in leadership in the Congress of the United States.”
Pence later tweeted that he told his running mate in advance of his decision, “I talked to @realDonaldTrump this morning about my support for Paul Ryan and our longtime friend ship….” According to a Trump campaign insider, the GOP nominee is giving Pence “latitude” to speak his mind and convictions, and Pence’s endorsement was hardly a falling out.
Trump’s withholding the endorsement, however, was causing friction with fellow Republicans, who were quickly abandoning the GOP nominee. Even Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, a friend of Ryan’s and also from Wisconsin, was upset at Trump veering off the script.
Trump’s decision to endorse Ryan came only hours after Ryan suggested he could be easily unendorsed Trump if he sees fit. On Friday morning, Ryan told local Wisconsin radio WTAQ’s Jerry Bader, “None of these things are ever blank checks, that goes with any situation in any kind of race.” Continuing Ryan explained why he endorsed Trump in the first place, “he won the delegates, he won the thing fair and square it’s just that simple.”