GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN, UNITED STATES (AUGUST 5, 2016) (RESTRICTED POOL) – U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump took steps to steer his White House campaign back into favor with his party establishment on Friday (August 5) by endorsing U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. Senator John McCain who are seeking re-election, after expressing coolness toward them earlier this week.
Trump said he needed a Republican Senate and a House to accomplish the changes he wanted to make as president at a rally in Green Bay, in northern Wisconsin, Ryan’s home state. He also endorsed McCain of Arizona and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, whom he called a “rising star.”
Ryan, the top U.S. elected Republican, had no plans to attend the event, in a sign of lingering frictions between the pair. His Republican primary challenger, businessman Paul Nehlen, did attend, according to a spokesman.
Trump earlier this week refused to endorse Ryan when he told The Washington Post he was “not quite there yet” – using the same phrase Ryan had used about Trump before finally endorsing him. He said in the same interview that McCain had not done enough for veterans and criticized Ayotte for distancing herself from him during the campaign.
At the rally, Trump read from notes in announcing the endorsements.
“He’s a good man and he’s a good guy. And we may disagree on a couple of things, but mostly we agree, and we’re going to get it done and we’re going to do a lot of wonderful things,” he added.
Ryan, who was earlier endorsed by Trump’s vice presidential running mate, Mike Pence, is viewed by establishment Republicans as a possible presidential candidate in the future. He is expected to win a challenge for his House seat in next week’s Republican primary.
Trump’s endorsement emerged as he took other steps to get his campaign back on track after days of controversy and falling poll numbers that have given Democrat Hillary Clinton the advantage in the race to the Nov. 8 election.
“And while I’m at it, I hold in the highest esteem Senator John McCain for his service to our country, in uniform and in public office, and I fully support and endorse his re-election. Very important. We’ll work together. I also fully support and endorse Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire,” Trump said.
The real estate mogul and former reality television star was caught up for days in a public spat with the parents of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq. The parents had spoken out against Trump at last week’s Democratic National Convention. Many Republicans, including Ryan, McCain and Ayotte, were critical of Trump’s insistent attacks on the parents.
Last year Trump criticized McCain, deriding his work in the Senate, calling him “a loser” for his defeat in the 2008 White House race and dismissing his time imprisoned in Vietnam.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said in July 2015 at a gathering in Ames, Iowa, of religious conservatives. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
At a news conference later, Trump softened his comments, saying, “If a person is captured, they are a hero as far as I’m concerned.”
In the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Friday, Clinton’s lead over Trump narrowed to less than 3 percentage points, down from nearly 8 points on Monday.