Paul Ryan: We're in fight to 'retake the soul' of the Republican Party

Paul Ryan: We're in fight to 'retake the soul' of the Republican Party
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanGOP super PAC drops .5 million on Nevada ad campaign Blue wave poses governing risks for Dems Dems seek to rebuild blue wall in Rust Belt contests MORE (R-Wis.) told a donor audience convened by the billionaire Koch brothers that conservatives are in a fight to "retake the soul" of the Republican Party. 

"We have to do a better job of taking the moral high ground ... showing [conservative] ideas in practice," Ryan said on Monday. 
 
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"And it will help us retake the soul of our own party, which we have our own challenges with these days."
 
Ryan addressed a room of about 400 donors who have been gathered here since Saturday in a luxury resort at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains for the summer retreat of the Koch network, founded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
 
The Kochs, who helm the most powerful financial force in conservative politics, are refusing to support GOP presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rallies in Nevada amid Supreme Court flurry: 'We're gonna get Brett' Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada MORE on both policy and moral grounds. Ryan didn't mention the party's nominee by name during his speech. 
 
But the Speaker, who endorsed Trump tepidly and belatedly, gave clear signals on Monday that he understood the despair with which many in the Koch network view the presidential race. 
 
"We had 17 people running for president before the Iowa caucus," Ryan said. "We had no idea who our nominee was going to be, and the goal was to then draft with that nominee, and then bring [the Ryan agenda] to the country."
 
Ryan paused.
 
"We have a different kind of nominee now," he said, as the room filled with laughter. 
 
"He's unique."
 
But Ryan said he was still getting out there, working to develop and promote conservative plans such as comprehensive tax reform.
 
Trump's opposition to free-trade deals, his comments about Muslims, and his plan to deport 11 million illegal immigrants have all contributed to the Koch network's decision not to spend a penny of its $250 million 2016 budget in support of the billionaire nominee.
 
Ryan indirectly acknowledged the donors' frustration by showing how he was personally trying to add moral and policy ballast in an election year dominated by nothing of the sort. 
 
He told them his original plan was to work with the Republican presidential nominee and make his policies — which include substantial tax reforms and a plan to replace ObamaCare — not simply details on a website but the rhetorical centerpieces of a presidential campaign.
 
"We want to be known for this. We want to run on this. We want to earn the right to put this in place," Ryan said. "That's the kind of validating election we're seeking."
 
Ryan also explained the way he sees his own role as a leader navigating perilous waters for the Republican Party. 
 
He said the GOP is "flirting with various forms of progressivism."
 
"As Republicans, our challenge is to become a pro-market party and not be a pro-business party," he said, in a reference to the corporate subsidies that are fiercely opposed by the network. 
 
"I'm looking at the current moment, which is clearly an interesting moment. We see ourselves in the House as sort of the engine room of the ship of the Republican Party," he said.
 
"We're down in the bottom ... in the bowels shoveling coal into the furnace. And, by the way, there's nothing wrong with coal."
 
The donor audience, which contained several coal barons, laughed and clapped.
 
"But we also see ourselves adding a keel and a rudder to the ship, giving it substance and giving it direction. 
 
"Giving it a moral foundation."