Paul Ryan, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives—a man President-elect Donald Trump mocked just a month ago as “weak and ineffective”—today praised the incoming commander-in-chief for ensuring GOP majorities in both wings of the Capitol.
Ryan, whose caucus shed only a handful of seats last night, made the remarks at a presser in native state of Wisconsin hours after Trump carried the traditional Democratic stronghold on his way to a stunning upset victory over Hillary Clinton. The speaker, who was the party’s vice presidential candidate in 2012, had distanced himself from the Queens-born businessman after his attacks on a Mexican-American federal judge (which Ryan called “the textbook definition of racism”), and after a 2005 video leaked in which Trump described sexually assaulting women.
The pair’s relationship had frayed so bad, one Clinton surrogate even suggested Ryan would pull the lever for the Democratic nominee.
“Our House majority is bigger than expected. We won more seats than anyone expected. And much of that is thanks to Donald Trump,” Ryan said today. “Donald Trump provided the kind of coattails that got a lot of people over the finish line, so we can maintain our strong House and Senate majorities.”
Trump’s showing last night upended all projections, which had anticipated him losing to Clinton and damaging GOP candidates down ballot. As Ryan noted today, the opposite happened, though he admitted the process was “very messy”—even though Trump clinched an electoral college victory last night, current tallies have Clinton winning the popular vote.
“I think what Donald Trump just pulled off is an enormous political feat. It’s an enormous feat that he heard those voices that were out there that other people weren’t hearing, and he just earned a mandate,” he said. “We didn’t think it could happen. Donald Trump turned it on its head.”
“It will help us hit the ground running as we work with Donald Trump to do this. We will honor the timeless principles our country was founded on: liberty. Freedom. Free enterprise. Consent of the governed,” Ryan said. “This is the kind of unified Republican government that we set out to deliver.”
But it’s unclear how Ryan’s fiscally conservative, quasi-libertarian proposals will mesh with the populist nationalism Trump ran on, which called for both massive tax cuts and protecting entitlement programs, constructing a wall on the Mexican border and slapping outsourcing manufacturers with retaliatory tariffs.
The speaker, who presided over the party’s chaotic Cleveland convention, dismissed questions about his personal rapport with the president-elect. He also insisted he, Trump and other top party officials had “unified” in the final days of the campaign, despite all outward signs to the contrary.
“I think our relationship’s fine. I’ve spoken with Donald twice in the last 18 hours,” he said, refusing to answer a question about whether Trump would back him for another term as speaker. “We had great conversations about how we work together on the transition to make this work together.”
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.