In the end, Paul Ryan voted for Donald Trump.
The Republican presidential nominee and House speaker have had a tortured relationship with each other all year. After Trump became the GOP’s presumptive candidate, Ryan held off on endorsing him for several weeks.
And after Ryan did make that endorsement – in a low-key local newspaper column – he continued to criticize Trump for his insults of a federal judge and the family of a soldier killed in Iraq, among other instances. Trump retaliated by initially declining to endorse Ryan before his Wisconsin congressional primary.
This all came to a head in the days after the release of a decade-old Access Hollywood tape showing Trump bragging about groping and kissing women without their permission. Ryan didn’t unendorse Trump, but told fellow House Republicans he’d no longer campaign for or defend the nominee.
Since that moment, several Republicans have walked back their condemnations of Trump. Tightening national polls certainly played a role in that too – it’s much more strategic to distance yourself from someone losing in a landslide than someone who’s just a few points back in the race.
But Ryan told Fox News this morning that he’s already cast his ballot, and that he cast it for Trump. “I already voted here in Janesville for our nominee last week, in early voting,” he told Fox & Friends Tuesday morning. “We need to support our entire Republican ticket.”
One reason he gave was the ongoing controversy over Hillary Clinton’s private email server. “The point I keep trying to make to younger voters who did not live through the 1990s – this is what life with the Clintons looks like,” Ryan said. “There’s always a scandal, one after another. Then there’s an investigation.”
Clinton allies would say the vast majority of those investigations – from the initial Whitewater probe to the eventual focus on Bill Clinton’s extramarital affair it spawned into — were partisan efforts pushed by Republicans.
Notably, though, Ryan still doesn’t seem all that enthusiastic about Trump. He referred to Trump as “our nominee” and talked of supporting “the entire Republican ticket” during the course of the Fox interview. He also told the network that not only will he not appear with Trump at a campaign event in Wisconsin today – but that he didn’t know about the event until “about ten minutes ago.”
As he’s been doing for months, Ryan repeatedly tried to focus the attention on his House Republican policy agenda.
“If we don’t win the White House, if we don’t win Congress, we don’t get this. We get Clinton scandal,” Ryan said. “She will come in, just like Barack Obama did, but with all her scandal baggage. And I don’t think that’s what the American people want to see.”