District of Columbia: Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump fell short of winning an endorsement from House speaker Paul Ryan Thursday after a high-stakes bid to get the party leadership behind his divisive White House run.
Trump and Ryan issued a joint statement after the face-to-face meeting calling it a "positive step toward unification" and stressing the need to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November elections.
But Ryan, who declared last week that he was "just not ready" to support Trump as the party's flagbearer, withheld his endorsement of the New York billionaire.
"I think this is going in a positive direction and I think this is a first very encouraging meeting," he told reporters afterward. "But again in 45 minutes you don`t litigate all of the processes and all the issues and the principles that we are talking about."
In the joint statement, the two said: "While we were honest about our few differences, we recognize that there are also many important areas of common ground."
"We will be having additional discussions, but remain confident there`s a great opportunity to unify our party and win this fall, and we are totally committed to working together to achieve that goal," they said.
Their talks also included Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, and were followed by a broader meeting between Trump and House GOP leaders.
The real estate mogul, who has never run for elective office before, was scheduled to meet later in the day with his party`s Senate leaders.Concerns about the tone and substance of Trump`s campaign have trickled down to many in the congressional rank and file who fear a Trump nomination could doom their efforts to win the presidency and hold the majority in the Senate and House of Representatives.
Charlie Dent, a moderate House Republican who was not in Thursday`s meetings, told reporters the session with House leaders was "an opportunity to clear the air."
Trump "has to convince many Americans, including myself, that he`s ready to lead this great nation," he said. "At this point I haven`t been persuaded, but I`m ready to listen."
Trump`s efforts will tell whether he will have the full support of his party as he goes into what promises to be a brutal general election fight with Clinton.
Ryan, who at 46 is a generation younger than 69-year-old Trump, took up the speakership last October pledging to modernize the party`s image and reach out to minority groups that traditionally vote Democratic.
But many GOP luminaries have watched aghast as the provocative real estate mogul has insulted Mexicans, demeaned women and called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States in his quest for the party nomination.
When Trump arrived at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee in Washington he was greeted by a dozen or so chanting protesters.
Trump ignored the protesters, who carried signs that read "Trump is a racist" and "RIP GOP," as he entered the building through a back door.
"Undocumented! Unafraid!" protesters shouted in defiance of Trump`s vow to order mass deportations of illegal immigrants if elected.Trump was looking for more than just a photo op on Thursday.
"I have a lot of respect for Paul and I think we`re going to have a very good meeting," he told Fox News on Tuesday.
"If we make a deal, that will be great," he added later. "And if we don`t, we will trudge forward like I`ve been doing and winning, you know, all the time."
While many upper echelon party figures including 2012 nominee Mitt Romney and the two Bush presidents are opposed to Trump, there are signs of a growing move to unite behind Trump.
The chairmen of seven House committees endorsed the tycoon Wednesday, saying in a statement that Trump posted on his Facebook page that "it is paramount that we coalesce around the Republican nominee... and maintain control of both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate".
On Tuesday, Republican Senator James Inhofe criticized Ryan`s reticence, saying Trump "is the nominee, he`s going to be working together and have to establish a workable relationship, and I think they will."
"But that`s not a good way to start," he added.
A handful of pro-Trump House Republicans met with Ryan Wednesday to urge him to back the billionaire.Although some Republicans called for a genuine conservative candidate to challenge Trump and Clinton in November, that prospect has dimmed.
"Most of my members believe he`s won the nomination the old-fashioned way," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who after months of voicing concern about how a Trump nomination might affect Republican efforts to hold the Senate, has expressed support for him.
"We know that Hillary Clinton will be four more years of Barack Obama. I think that`s going to, in the end, be enough to unify Republicans across the country."
Some anti-Trump die-hards, including Senator Lindsey Graham, argue that Republicans in tough re-election fights would fare better if they separate themselves from The Donald.
But others have downplayed the crisis, saying there was plenty of time for Trump to flesh out his policy positions and develop a more presidential bearing.