Pretending the Republican Party is unified when it really isn't means going into the fall elections at "half-strength," House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday, pointing out that "real unification" is needed as a party but that will take effort.
"I want to be part of that unifying process so we're full strength this fall to win this election," the Wisconsin Republican said during a press conference
in Washington, while commenting about the meeting he and other key Republicans are planning in Washington with presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump Thursday.
"We cannot afford to lose this election to Hillary Clinton, to pack the Supreme Court, keep the liberal Obama agenda going," Ryan told reporters. "We have to be at full strength to win this election and that is why we have to go through the actual effort and process of unifying."
The meeting was planned after Ryan said in a CNN interview last week that he was hesitant to back Trump without knowing more about his policies, leading to a firestorm that has included some calls for Ryan to step away from his position as House speaker.
On Wednesday, Ryan said he has only met Trump once in person, back in 2012, and he does not really know the New York real estate tycoon-turned presidential candidate.
"We had a very good conversation in March on the phone," said Ryan. "We just need to get to know each other and we as a leadership team are enjoying the fact we have a chance to meet with him. So I would rather have a conversation in person than through the media. No offense."
Meanwhile, there is "plenty of room" for policy differences in the Republican Party, but the goal is to "unify the various wings of the party around common principles so we go forward unified."
Ryan said he spoke with former candidate Ben Carson
, now a top Trump supporter, Tuesday night, and said the retired neurosurgeon "wants to be a force to help all various wings of Republican Party and conservative movement to commodity together. He is trying to play a constructive role."
Meanwhile, he thinks it's important to present a unified message, as seven out of 10 Americans don't like the path on which the country is headed.
"[With] Hillary Clinton basically promising to keep going down the same path, we have an obligation to merge and unify around common principles to offer the country a choice, better way forward that will take some party unification to do that. We finished one of the most grueling primaries in modern history. It will take some work and that is the kind of work we're dedicated to doing."
Meanwhile, West Virginia GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, who will be at Thursday's Trump-Ryan meeting, told Fox News
' Martha MacCallum that she has not met Trump, but she will have some questions for him.
"In the state of West Virginia he made some statements that he will put coal miners back to work; I want to hear more specifics," said Capito. "But probably the most important question for me is what you say matters but how you say it matters as much. I've been concerned about the tone that he is taken throughout the campaign. It is time to unite. It is time to become one party and when we do that, I want to make sure he strikes a tone that represents me and my party, to win the presidency."
Just because Trump has enthusiasm and momentum, she continued, it should be moved in a positive way.
"I've been campaigning many, many times," said Capito, the daughter of late West Virginia Gov. Arch Moore. "You can whip up a crowd in a very positive way without sort of a slash and burn rhetoric and, I think, he can do that."
Capito said she is also concerned about Trump's statements on women, and she will "absolutely" speak with him on that issue Thursday.
"He is miscalculating how some of his comments are interpreted and obviously how they hit younger women and how they hit women in the workforce," she said "Just hearing it from more and more women I think as part of our party is important for him to hear. It is important to us. It should be important to him."
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