MADISON, Wis. — Speaker Paul Ryan, in his first public speech since breaking with Donald Trump last weekend didn’t mention the GOP nominee — training his fire on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and warning of the “liberal progressivism” he said a Democratic-controlled Washington will bring.
In a speech to College Republicans here, the Wisconsin Republican bemoaned that the presidential campaign has taken “some dark—sometimes very dark—turns,” without calling out Trump by name. He went on to contrast conservative policies of liberty with what he called an America of doom and gloom under Clinton.
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“What vision do Hillary Clinton and her party offer the people?” he asked. “The America they want does not stand out. It is ordinary. There is a gloom and a grayness to things. In the America they want, the driving force is the state. It is a place where government is taken away from the people, and we are ruled by our betters…by a cold and unfeeling bureaucracy that replaces original thinking.”
Clinton and Washington Democrats want a place, he continued “where the government twists the law—and the Constitution itself—to suit its purposes. A place where liberty is always under assault, where passion—the very stuff of life—is extinguished.”
While blasting the left, he made an implicit case that a Republican Congress is needed as a check on a potential Clinton administration.
“That is the America Hillary Clinton wants, and if given control of Washington — if given control of Congress — it is the kind of America she will stop at nothing to have.”
The comments were Ryan’s first publicly since he uninvited Trump to a campaign rally in his hometown last weekend. Ryan on Monday told House Republicans he was done defending Trump after the video showing him bragging about groping women with impunity because he’s famous.
Sources told POLITICO afterward he was still considering withdrawing his endorsement of Trump, which he only made reluctantly in the first place.
Trump responded by unloading on Ryan. He called the speaker a “very weak and ineffective leader” and accused him of being part of a conspiracy to keep him from the White House.
Ryan is worried that Trump could cost Republicans control of the House. He told donors Wednesday he fears Trump’s scandals and tanking poll numbers will bring down vulnerable House candidates. Republicans are expected to lose seats, but Trump’s freefall, if it continues, could easily exacerbate those losses.