US Speaker Paul D. Ryan, the nation’s highest-ranking elected Republican, said Thursday that he was “not ready” to endorse Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.
Mr. Ryan, who is also chairman of the Republican National Convention, has repeatedly said he would support his party’s nominee. But he has carved out some terrain to differentiate himself, by insisting that House Republicans write their own policy agenda this year and by giving speeches that at times criticized Mr. Trump’s views. Mr. Ryan said Republicans needed a “standard-bearer” who embodied the party’s standards.
“I don’t want to underplay what he accomplished,” Mr. Ryan said in an interview on CNN with Jake Tapper. But he added, “We hope that our nominee aspires to be Lincoln and Reaganesque,” someone who “appeals to a vast majority of Americans.”
“I think conservatives want to know: Does he share our values and our principles?” he said. “There’s a lot of questions conservatives are going to want answers to.”
His comments Thursday differed from other Republican lawmakers this week who have offered tempered support for Mr. Trump.
“I have committed to supporting the nominee chosen by Republican voters, and Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee, is now on the verge of clinching that nomination,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said in a statement this week.
Many Republicans have been expecting Mr. Ryan to spend his time this summer and fall shoring up vulnerable House Republicans, particularly those running in districts where Mr. Trump is unpopular, rather than stumping for the nominee.
Mr. Ryan has at times taken direct shots at Mr. Trump. After Mr. Trump proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States, Mr. Ryan strongly disagreed. “This is not conservatism,” Mr. Ryan said in December. “What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for, and more importantly, it’s not what this country stands for.”
He also criticized Mr. Trump for declining to distance himself from the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. “If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games,” Mr. Ryan told reporters in early March.
“They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry. This party does not prey on people’s prejudices. We appeal to their highest ideals. This is the party of Lincoln.”
“This is fundamental,” Mr. Ryan added at the time. “And if someone wants to be our nominee, they must understand this. I hope this is the last time I need to speak out on this race.”