Ryan treads carefully with Trump

Ryan treads carefully with Trump
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Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAppeals court rules House chaplain can reject secular prayers FEC filing: No individuals donated to indicted GOP rep this cycle The Hill's Morning Report - Waiting on Mueller: Answers come on Thursday MORE (R-Wis.) is the chairman of the Republican National Convention, but don’t expect him to give Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls Sri Lankan prime minister following church bombings Ex-Trump lawyer: Mueller knew Trump had to call investigation a 'witch hunt' for 'political reasons' The biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone MORE a full-throated endorsement when he steps on stage in Cleveland.

Instead, the House Speaker will tread carefully with Trump — much like he has throughout the campaign cycle — while arguing that the presumptive GOP presidential nominee is a better choice than Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIt is wrong to say 'no collusion' 10 factors making Russia election interference the most enduring scandal of the Obama era And the winner of the Robert Mueller Sweepstakes is — Vladimir Putin MORE.

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Most of Ryan’s speech and jam-packed schedule in Cleveland will center on his House GOP agenda, dubbed “A Better Way,” which provides policy prescriptions in six areas. To amplify the message, the self-described policy wonk plans to hold an anti-poverty event at a nearby site, attend a roundtable discussion on healthcare and give remarks at a national security event, among other appearances, aides told The Hill.

Touting the agenda in Cleveland will help “put meat on the bone” of a Trump campaign light on policy ideas, while demonstrating to voters that House Republicans have a positive game plan for the country.

But Ryan’s “Better Way” push also will allow the youngest Speaker in modern history to highlight his independent streak and burnish his political brand, should he decide to mount his own White House bid in the years ahead.

“We believe in family; we believe in people being able to meet their potential. Hard work reaps rewards. Those are the kinds of things that we feel strongly about. And those are inclusive principles. They apply equally to everybody,” Ryan, 46, said during a televised CNN town hall on Tuesday, during which he took several jabs at Trump.

“Take a look at, not maybe some of the harsh rhetoric you see here or there,” Ryan said, “but look at the actual ideas.”

The town hall was part of the Speaker’s weeklong push to promote GOP policy proposals, counter-programming what’s expected to be a raucous, unpredictable convention in Cleveland.

Before the CNN event, Ryan, flanked by his leadership team and rank-and-file Republicans, talked up the “Better Way” plan during a news conference in the Capitol’s stately Rayburn Room. And Ryan conducted a Facebook Live discussion with Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) to tout the agenda project, proclaiming that Washington shouldn’t implement “one-size-fits-all” policies. Love, a freshman considered a rising star, is one of only two African-Americans in the GOP conference and faces a tough reelection fight this fall.

“One of [Ryan’s] main focuses is to do everything he can to make sure that Donald Trump, our nominee, and his campaign are aware of it, are educated on it, and accept all or most of it,” said Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), who has worked on the economic pieces of the “Better Way” platform due to his role as Small Business Committee chairman.

Trump “will need a Congress he can work with if he wants to accomplish a lot of things he’s been talking about. He’s been talking about making America great again,” Chabot continued. “If you look at Paul Ryan’s plan, it puts the meat on the bones of a statement like that.”

Ryan’s official role in Cleveland is ceremonial chairman, which means he’ll gavel in, gavel out and preside over the convention. He’ll also deliver a 10- to 12-minute address on Tuesday night, two days before Trump is set to accept the nomination on the final night of the weeklong extravaganza at Quicken Loans Arena.

In his address, Ryan will touch on his experience as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate in 2012 and his efforts to unite the various factions within the House GOP conference during his eight months as Speaker, aides said. He’ll also make the case for why he’d have a better shot at implementing his “Better Way” plan with Trump occupying the White House rather than Clinton, who he’s said will represent “a third Obama term.”

As the most powerful Republican in the country, Ryan will be in high demand in Cleveland. In addition to the “Better Way” events, the Wisconsinite will drop by multiple delegation breakfasts, including those hosted by Ohio and Pennsylvania, and he’ll sit for countless interviews with media outlets, beginning Monday with an event hosted by The Wall Street Journal.

“Just knowing Paul as I do, he’s not a political guy first, he’s a policy guy first, and a lot of work has gone into these six elements of ‘A Better Way,’ ” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who runs the House GOP’s campaign operation and will attend the Cleveland convention.  

“Inevitably we all get asked about politics. He’ll always go to policy. It’s his home turf. It’s what he enjoys. It’s why he’s here. It’s what he’s passionate about it. You can try to nudge him into politics, but he’s really into the policy.”

Ryan has been walking a tightrope with Trump since last fall, when the nine-term congressman was elected the new Speaker of the House. He’s repeatedly condemned Trump’s antics on the campaign trail — for proposing a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., for failing to disavow white supremacist David Duke, for his handling of violence at rallies, for his attacks on a Mexican-American judge, and for tweeting out what looked like an anti-Semitic image.

And Ryan rattled the political world in early May, CNN’s Jake Tapper that he wasn’t ready to endorse Trump over doubts about whether the Manhattan real estate mogul and reality TV star was prepared to inherit the “party of Lincoln and Reagan and Jack Kemp,” Ryan’s late mentor.

It took several phone conversations and a face-to-face meeting on Capitol Hill before Ryan finally agreed to back Trump, a month later. But even then, the Speaker hasn’t hesitated in criticizing Trump when he feels that he’s crossed the line.

“I personally think Paul Ryan has conducted himself masterfully,” said conservative Rep. Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksArizona New Members 2019 Cook shifts 8 House races toward Dems Freedom Caucus members see openings in leadership MORE (R-Ariz.), a former Trump critic who now supports him. “If he had done what some wanted him to do, which was not endorse Trump, that would have been a terrible mistake. If he had done what others wanted him to do and immediately say he’s the greatest guy in the world, then that would have appeared disingenuous.

“I think Paul has handled it very well,” Franks continued. “He’s trying to create unity, but he is trying to create it on a firm foundation that is plausible and substantive — not just rainbows and unicorns.”

Cristina Marcos contributed.