Fractured GOP shows no signs of mending soon

Fractured GOP shows no signs of mending soon
Posted at 7:50 AM, May 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-06 09:52:06-04

WASHINGTON (AP) — A fractured Republican party showed few signs of mending itself Friday, after Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus declared his support for Donald Trump and Trump bashed House Speaker Paul Ryan for not falling in line.

"He talks about unity but what is this about unity?" Trump said of Ryan in a nationally broadcast interview. "With millions of people coming into the party, obviously I'm saying the right thing."

Ryan's declaration this week that he wasn't yet ready to embrace Trump sent shockwaves through the very Republican establishment that Trump is now leaning on for help as he transitions from the primary season to a general-election campaign, most likely against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"I was really surprised by it," the New York billionaire said in a phone interview with Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends." He added: "It's not a good thing. It's something the party should get solved quickly."

Trump says he will meet with Ryan, R-Wis., next week, possibly as early as Wednesday.

When asked about backing Trump, Ryan told CNN on Thursday: "I'm not there right now," although he said he hopes to be eventually. "I think what is required is that we unify this party," Ryan said.

Priebus broke with Ryan on Friday morning, declaring that he supports Trump as the party's presidential nominee, even if he disagrees with some of his major policies such as banning Muslims from entering the U.S.

Next week's meeting, Priebus said, will "start the process of unifying."

"Paul's just being honest," Priebus said of the House speaker. "He says he's not there yet, but he wants to get there."

Priebus continued: "It's going to take some time in some cases for people to work through differences."

On choosing a running mate, Trump on Friday would say only that the person will not be a Democrat. He had indicated earlier this week following his win in the Indiana primary that he would likely settle on a political person with Washington experience — someone who could help him get legislation through Congress.

"I'm going to pick a Republican and we'll have a tremendous victory," Trump said Friday, noting he was particularly pleased to have the backing of former 2016 presidential campaign rival Rick Perry of Texas.

Meanwhile, Trump's advisers commenced conversations with the Republican National Committee on coordinating fundraising and tapping into the committee's extensive voter data file and nationwide get-out-the-vote operation.

RNC officials sent a draft of a joint fundraising proposal to the Trump campaign on Thursday that details how they would divide donations between the campaign, the national committee, the national convention committee and several state parties. The agreement, standard practice in modern-day campaigns, is expected to be finalized in the coming days.

Trump on Thursday named a finance chairman, Steven Mnuchin, a private investor with ties to New York and Hollywood who has never led a major political fundraising team. Many major GOP donors have never heard of him — or even know how to pronounce his name (muh-NOO'-chihn). Like his new boss, Mnuchin has a record of giving both to Republicans and Democrats, including Democrat Hillary Clinton during her 2008 presidential run.

Trump also has received a cool reception from the 2012 GOP standard-bearer, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whose vice presidential running mate was Ryan, and former President George W. Bush. Neither Bush nor his father, former President George H.W. Bush have embraced Trump, and neither plans to attend the party convention in Cleveland in July.

The divisiveness within the top echelons of the party sends an unmistakable signal to Republican fundraising networks, which include most of the GOP's best-connected donors.

"You might have a lot of these donors sit on the sidelines," said Spencer Zwick, who led Romney's fundraising efforts and now serves as Ryan's national finance chairman.

Trump has not yet ruled out accepting public financing for his general-election effort. Taking public money would dramatically limit how much he can spend this fall.

The billionaire acknowledges he would have to sell some of his holdings to muster the hundreds of millions of dollars for a general-election bid, something he says he doesn't necessarily want to do.

Meanwhile, Ryan is positioning himself to play a central role in helping to protect vulnerable House and Senate candidates heading into the general election. The speaker has long been working on an "agenda project" that could give Republicans something to run on independently from their presidential nominee.

"He's constantly out there talking about his agenda," Zwick said of Ryan, adding: "Many people aren't sure what the Trump agenda is yet."

Trump and Ryan have publicly clashed in the past. Ryan rebuked Trump for plans to bar Muslims from the country and when he was slow to disavow former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Trump told a crowd in South Carolina in February that Ryan doomed the GOP presidential ticket four years ago by saying entitlement programs need reform.