CLEVELAND (AP) — For House Speaker Paul Ryan, the Republican National Convention offers opportunity and risk as he tentatively embraces Donald Trump while eyeing his own political future.
Ryan's cautious approach toward the soon-to-be GOP presidential nominee was on display Monday as the speaker kicked off his convention stand with breakfast remarks to his home-state Wisconsin delegation.
Ryan didn't even mention Trump's name. Instead he focused on the six-plank governing agenda he has proposed in the House that deals with taxes, health care, national security and other issues.
"We are telling the country there's a better way and what we are seeking to achieve in this election is giving people a choice," Ryan said. "So many people turn on the TV and they just see a food fight ... people yelling at each other, all this acrimony, all this anxiety."
"All of these problems in America, they're fixable problems," Ryan said.
Whether Trump would be the one to fix them, Ryan didn't say. The speaker hesitated for more than a month before finally endorsing Trump in early June, but even since then has repeatedly criticized the businessman on issues including his immigration stances.
In explaining his decision to finally back Trump, Ryan often argues that he and all Republicans face a "binary choice" between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, who would simply offer eight more years of the Obama administration. Ryan used that phrase later Monday morning, in a visit to the Philadelphia delegation, where he mentioned Trump briefly and dwelled effusively on Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump's vice presidential pick.
"We have here a very, very good leader, willing to serve, a real Reagan-like happy warrior joining the ticket," Ryan said.
Ryan himself was the GOP's vice presidential nominee four years ago and is seen by many as a future presidential contender. He has deflected questions about his own presidential ambitions of late, but that doesn't stop Wisconsin Republicans from looking at him and seeing a future president.
"Paul would be a wonderful president if there's ever an opportunity, there's no question about that in my mind," said Jim Berg, 66, of Erin, Wisconsin, in town for the convention.
As speaker of the House, Ryan has the role of convention chairman, but on Monday he was spending his time at off-campus events, including visiting a youth anti-poverty event. He will deliver a speech to convention delegates on Tuesday, and said he would be speaking about poverty, upward mobility and the dangers of practicing identity politics.
Without specifically blaming Trump's habit of offending women, minorities and others, Ryan said he feared identity politics was becoming more prevalent on the right.
"I hope that people don't conclude that that's the way to win an election," Ryan said at a lunch hosted by the Wall Street Journal. "I think the left in many ways has concluded that. I hope the right doesn't go down that rabbit hole."
Asked whether Trump was really a conservative, Ryan responded: "Define conservative, he's not my kind of conservative." But Ryan went on to note they come from different wings of the party and concluded: "I think he's a conservative."
Associated Press writer Matthew Daly contributed to this report.