WASHINGTON– Indiana Gov. Mike Pence broke with his running mate Donald Trump on Wednesday in endorsing House Speaker Paul Ryan in his primary re-election fight.
“I strongly support Paul Ryan, strongly endorse his re-election,” Pence, a longtime congressional colleague of Ryan’s, said in a phone interview with Fox News. “He is a longtime friend. He’s a strong conservative leader. I believe we need Paul Ryan in leadership in the Congress of the United States.”
Pence said he spoke with Trump Wednesday morning. The GOP presidential nominee “strongly encouraged me to endorse Paul Ryan in next Tuesday’s primary,” Pence said.
On Tuesday, Trump caused shockwaves when he said he was “not quite there yet” on backing Ryan, who faces off against Republican challenger Paul Nehlen next Tuesday.
Nehlen told CNN earlier Wednesday he wasn’t being used by Trump would gladly accept the Republican nominee’s endorsement if it were offered.
“When somebody holds the door open for you and you say, ‘Thank you,’ is that using somebody?” Nehlen said on CNN’s “At This Hour.” “If somebody sneezes and I say, ‘God bless you,’ was somebody used in that transaction?”
Nehlen, who has been running a longshot bid ahead of Tuesday’s election, got a burst of attention this week after Trump delivered a series of hits against Ryan. First, Trump tweeted his thanks to Nehlen after he praised the real estate mogul, and then Trump told The Washington Post he’s “not quite there yet” on endorsing Ryan.
Nehlen said he has not asked for Trump’s endorsement but would love to have it. He then said that Trump could “screw up” the presidential race by endorsing him, but declined to explain what he meant by that.
“I haven’t asked for his endorsement at all. If he gave me his endorsement, I’d be flattered by it. The last thing I’d want is for him to screw up the presidential race,” Nehlen said.
An email request for comment from the Ryan campaign was not immediately returned Wednesday morning. But Ryan spokesman Zack Roday has previously said the campaign would not get in a “back-and-forth” with Nehlen.