House Speaker Paul Ryan appears to be severing political ties with his former running mate, Gov. Mitt Romney, as he has set in motion a path to unity with Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.
The Republican ticket from 2012 is splitting. Romney remains staunchly opposed to Donald Trump, recently made more glaringly apparent after he echoed Hillary Clinton by demanding the billionaire release his tax returns. He also appears disturbed by the voters that Trump has brought into the Republican party.
Last week, the former Republican nominee for president lamented the “demagoguery and populism” that had entered the Republican party, and said he was “dismayed” by the remaining choices for president.
But Ryan, Romney’s former choice for vice president, chose a different path, recognizing Trump’s political success as something more powerful than the ticket he ran on in 2012.
“He has gotten more votes than any Republican primary nominee in the history of our country,” Ryan told reporters after meeting with Trump. “And this isn’t even over yet, he hasn’t even gone to California yet, it’s really a remarkable achievement.”
Ryan argued that the policies that Trump brought to the party would fit under the big tent — even if he didn’t completely agree with the presumptive nominee.
“I represent a wing of a conservative party, you could say,” Ryan said. “He’s bringing a whole new wing to it.”
More significantly, Ryan reminded reporters that he didn’t completely agree with Romney on policy when he chose to join his presidential ticket.
“We will have policy disputes. There is no two ways about that,” Ryan said. “Mitt Romney and I didn’t agree on everything in 2012. So we will have policy disputes.”
It’s a marked change for both Ryan and Romney, who bonded quickly on the campaign trail and remained close after they lost to Obama. In 2015, Romney joked that he wanted to clone Ryan so he could run for Speaker and for president at the same time. Ryan even invited the Romneys to join him as he was sworn in as Speaker of the House.
Once hailed as a potential “kingmaker,” Romney remained on the sidelines of the Republican presidential race until it was too late. Since the failure of his #NeverTrump effort, Romney demonstrated his lack of influence on the future of the Republican party.
Like former Sen. Bob Dole and Sen. John McCain, there will always be a willing media audience for former failed Republican presidential nominees grumbling about the future of the party. Mitt Romney has effectively joined their ranks.
Ryan has chosen a different way forward.
“I’m not interested in litigating the past,” Ryan told reporters, who repeatedly asked about his policy differences with Trump. “I’m interested in going forward and seeing where that common ground exists to make sure that we can have a unified Republican party.”