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Paul Ryan Doesn't Think He'll Have To Denounce Donald Trump

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 17/03/2016 Matt Fuller
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House Speaker Paul Ryan has condemned Donald Trump's outrageous comments twice now -- once after the real estate mogul called for a Muslim ban and once after he failed to adequately distance himself from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. But the Wisconsin Republican said on Thursday that he doesn't think he'll have to denounce Trump's entire candidacy.

"I do not believe I'll have to do that," Ryan told reporters at his weekly press conference. The speaker didn't clarify whether he thinks he won't have to disavow Trump because the would-be nominee will be on his best behavior, or because he doesn't think Trump will be the nominee.

When a reporter pressed Ryan, saying he has already "denounced Donald Trump for xenophobia and Islamaphobia," Ryan playfully shrugged as if to say, "Well, yes and no."

Ryan has yet to use Trump's name in one of his condemnations, opting instead for nebulous statements about what conservatism really is and what it is not. But it's clear that Ryan has been referring to the GOP front-runner, even if Trump himself doesn't seem to be getting the message.

When discussing how he'll unite the party during his victory speech on Tuesday, Trump noted that "Paul Ryan called me -- tremendous call."

Privately, sources have told The Huffington Post that Ryan is struggling with how to deal with Trump. Publicly, however, Ryan notes he's the chairman of the GOP nominating convention in July and says it would therefore be inappropriate for him to endorse -- or denounce -- any of the candidates.

Still, Democrats are doing their best to connect Ryan and the rest of the GOP conference with the GOP front-runner. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently sent Ryan a "Trump Starter Kit," complete with a copy of The Art of the Deal, the first season of "The Apprentice" and some antacid.

But the true sources of Ryan's heartburn are Trump's often-appalling comments condoning violence at his rallies, stoking fear and racism, and denigrating women.

Ryan still seems to be holding out hope that Trump won't be the nominee, and that he won't have to reconsider his "I'll support whoever our nominee is" pledge.

On Thursday, Ryan, who two months ago said it was "ridiculous" for the press to suggest there could be a brokered Republican convention, seemed to acknowledge that a contested vote in Cleveland was a distinct possibility.

Ryan said the GOP nomination was a democratic process, and if a candidate doesn't receive "sufficient delegates, then it goes to the convention, and the delegates make that decision."

Ryan noted that those delegates were themselves elected by Republicans, and said he plans to respect the process and not say whom the GOP nominee should be.

But he did add that he has a responsibility to speak out if anybody -- "not just Donald Trump" -- is misrepresenting the Republican party or "disfiguring conservatism," and said he would continue to do that.

One thing Ryan was quite definitive about, however, was speculation that he might run for the White House himself. He recently responded "we'll see" when asked about running in a contested convention, and former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) recently said he'd like Ryan to become the nominee in a brokered convention as well. Speaking about the idea on Tuesday, Ryan was about as Shermanesque as a potential future candidate for the presidency can get.

"It's not going to be me. It should be somebody running for president," he said, adding that he wanted to "put this thing to rest and move on."

"I saw Boehner last night, and I told him to knock it off," he said, noting that he used slightly different words that were a bit more John Boehner-ish and almost certainly saltier.

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