Congress

‘To be clear’: Paul Ryan cleans up after remarks about Trump and 2020

Former GOP speaker said Monday that a Democrat could win if race is about Trump’s ‘personality’

Former Speaker Paul Ryan clarified comments he made about how President Donald Trump's “personality” shouldn’t be the focus of the 2020 race. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Speaker Paul D. Ryan tried on Wednesday to clarify comments he made at a speech earlier this week in which he suggested that some Democratic presidential candidates could defeat President Donald Trump in the 2020 election if the race was dominated by Trump’s “personality.”

The Wisconsin Republican, who retired in January, sent out a follow-up tweet Wednesday saying that the U.S. is “clearly better off” with Trump in the Oval Office and that his “record of accomplishment” will carry him to victory in 2020.

“To be clear, GOP wins elections when they’re about ideas not when they’re personality contests like Dems & media want,” Ryan tweeted. “We’re clearly better off because of @RealDonaldTrump. His record of accomplishment is why he’ll win re-election especially when compared to Dems’ leftward lurch.”

At a Monday speech in Vero Beach, Florida, Ryan appeared to briefly outline the playbook for Democrats to topple Trump and make him the first one-term president since George H.W. Bush — namely, make the race about Trump’s personality.

If Trump relies on his personal brand to win, instead of stressing his policies, he could lose, Ryan suggested.

“The person who defines that race is going to win the race. If this is about Donald Trump and his personality, he isn’t going to win it,” Ryan said.

Ryan had a notoriously rocky relationship with the president throughout their two years working together. Even after tepidly endorsing him in the summer during the 2016 campaign, Ryan repeatedly denounced things the president said. At one point, Ryan reportedly considered rescinding his endorsement.

But when Trump was president, Ryan learned to let the White House — not him — answer for Trump’s controversial remarks and to stay mostly in the background.

Ryan’s speech Monday in Florida was his marquee public appearance since retiring from Congress in January, where he had been speaker since 2015. He served in the House for 20 years.

Watch: Paul Ryan’s farewell address as Speaker

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.