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Paul Ryan Launches New War of Words With Donald Trump

Paul Ryan
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is in a tough re-election fight in his home district, which may have prompted his comments Thursday about Donald Trump. (Reuters photo)

What is the Speaker of the House up to now? U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), in an interview Thursday, said he couldn't support Donald Trump as the GOP presidential nominee—yet.

"I hope to support our nominee, I hope to support his candidacy fully," he told CNN's Jake Tapper. "I'm just not ready to do that at this point. I'm not there right now."

In response, Donald Trump issued a statement that simply read:

"I am not ready to support Speaker Ryan's agenda. Perhaps in the future we can work together and come to an agreement about what is best for the American people. They have been treated so badly for so long that it is about time for politicians to put them first!"

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With the only living Republican former presidents, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, refusing to endorse his candidacy, Ryan's statement added fuel to conspiracy theorists' notions the Republican Party establishment may still attempt something nefarious at the national convention in Cleveland. The speaker will serve as chairman of the convention in mid-July.

But in response to Ryan's comments, the Republican National Committee issued its own statement:

"We respect Speaker Ryan's opinion and believe that since the primary ended early we will have time to unify. We anticipate the two meeting soon to begin to help unite the party."

So, could there be something much less sinister at work?

Tea Party Republicans, who are a powerful lobby in Ryan's home district in Wisconsin, were furious he did nothing to stop the 2015 budget compromise—which in its first six months has already added $1 trillion to the national debt. They have put up a primary challenger, something generally unheard of for a sitting Speaker of the House.

Ryan's challenger, businessman Paul Nehlen, is quickly gaining support in the First Congressional District, and the attention of national media. The businessman has recently taken to attacking the speaker for his support for Trade Promotion Authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he calls "job killers," much like the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

But, in the Wisconsin primary, Trump got thumped—hard—by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in Ryan's home district. The margin was 51-32 percent. Holding Trump at arm's length, at least for the time being, may be a temporary effort to save his own political career.

He's going to have a hard time maintaining it, though.

The national convention is coming up in July, and the GOP leadership will be pushing for unity within the party. However, the congressional primary election in Wisconsin won't be held until Aug. 9, nearly a full month later.

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