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Donald Trump and Paul Ryan vow to work together despite differences

Published 12/05/2016

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves as he arrives for a meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan in Washington (AP)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves as he arrives for a meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan in Washington (AP)

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan have pledged to work together despite their differences.

The pair issued a statement after a meeting aimed at unifying a party torn over Mr Trump's rise to the cusp of the GOP presidential nomination.

It described their meeting as a "very positive step towards unification" that recognised "many important areas of common ground" as well as areas where they disagree.

Mr Ryan has yet to come out in support of Mr Trump, a week after stunning Republicans by withholding his endorsement.

However, their statement suggested both want to crack down on the Republican infighting as they try to pull the GOP together for the fight against Hillary Clinton and Democrats in the autumn.

The much-anticipated meeting unfolded on Thursday morning as more Republicans began urging the party to put the extraordinary discord behind it.

"The meeting was great," Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), tweeted afterwards. "It was a very positive step towards party unity."

Mr Priebus attended the opening meeting with the two before Mr Trump and Mr Ryan sat down with a small group of GOP House leaders.

Mr Trump entered the RNC building, the venue a few blocks from the Capitol, through a side door as about a dozen protesters who oppose his immigration positions demonstrated at the front, chanting: "Down, down with deportation. Up, up with liberation."

They tried to deliver a cardboard coffin to the RNC representing the suffering of immigrants under GOP policies and what they say will be the death of the party under Mr Trump. They were not allowed inside.

Democratic Representative Joaquin Castro, of Texas, walked by and remarked that Mr Trump is "tearing people apart. You can see the circus out here. He's just bad for the country."

Republican Representative Lee Zeldin, of New York, a Trump supporter, said it will help both the candidate and the speaker if they can work through their differences.

"I don't think it's do or die, any endorsement in particular," he said outside the building, but "Donald Trump's candidacy is strengthened with an endorsement from the most powerful person, top-ranking Republican in the country. It helps."

On the eve of the meetings, Mr Trump eased his defiant tone of recent days.

Asked on Fox News who leads the party in his view, he said Mr Ryan.

"I would say Paul for the time being and maybe for a long time," he said.

"We can always have differences. If you agree on 70%, that's always a lot."

The two men represent vastly different visions for the Republican Party, and whether they can come together may foretell whether the GOP will heal itself after a bruising primary season or face irrevocable rupture.

Mr Trump, for years a registered Democrat, has offended women, Hispanics, and others while violating establishment party orthodoxy on numerous issues Mr Ryan holds dear, from trade to wages to religious freedom.

Mr Ryan, a policy-focused conservative, insists the GOP must be a party of ideas, and has championed an agenda that has drawn Mr Trump's scorn by pushing cuts in Medicare and other government programmes.

Indeed, more Republican voters appear to be moving behind Mr Trump, despite big-name holdouts such as Mr Ryan, both former president Bushes and the party's 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney.

Mr Romney went after Mr Trump on Wednesday over his refusal to release his taxes, calling it "disqualifying" and asserting that the only explanation must be "a bombshell of unusual size".

Still, almost two in three Republican-leaning voters now view Mr Trump favourably, compared with 31% who view him unfavourably, according to a national Gallup Poll taken last week.

The numbers represent a near total reversal from Gallup's survey in early March.

And on Capitol Hill, where Mr Ryan has managed to remain popular since taking over as speaker, some Republicans made clear that they would like to see him come around to supporting Mr Trump sooner rather than later.

Representative Tom Cole, of Oklahoma, an ally of GOP leadership, said his biggest worry about Mr Trump is that he is "'unpredictable".

Yet Mr Trump is also a "change agent", Mr Cole said.

"That's exactly what people want right now, so in that sense he's very well-positioned for a general election."

"It seems to me they have every incentive to find common ground," he said of Mr Trump and Mr Ryan, "because to be successful they both in a sense need one another".

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