Mike Pence suggested on Tuesday night that Paul Ryan would hold onto his role as Speaker of the House under a Trump administration despite his running mate’s repeated frustrations with the Republican leader over the last month.
"We look forward to working with Paul Ryan," Pence said in an interview on MSNBC’s 11th Hour, indicating that he and Ryan just "communicated in the last 24 hours."
"Paul Ryan is my friend — we've been friends for more than 15 years," Pence added. "I hold him in very high regard, and frankly, I'm grateful for his leadership in the House of Representatives."
Just two weeks ago, Donald Trump suggested on Fox News that Ryan "maybe wouldn’t be there" as the House speaker if he wins the presidency.
The GOP nominee followed with tweets calling Ryan a "very weak and ineffective leader" and "a man who doesn't know how to win." And a crowd at a Trump rally in Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin chanted: "Paul Ryan sucks!"
Earlier this month, Ryan said he would no longer defend Trump’s candidacy and rescinded an invitation for the nominee to speak at a local GOP event outside of Milwaukee after the release of the 2005 Access Hollywood tape in which Trump asserted he had engaged in sexual predatory behavior.
Pence responded at the time to Ryan’s decision to not advocate on behalf of the party’s ticket by saying, "I respectfully disagree with his focus in this campaign."
The strained relationship between the party’s two standard bearers — its presidential nominee and House speaker — just two weeks out from the election underscores Trump’s struggle to gain the backing of Republican leaders and the ticket’s difficult path ahead in the next two weeks as reflected in polling numbers.
Recent polls give Trump the upper hand in the swing states of Iowa and Ohio, but Hillary Clinton maintains leads in the slew of other key battleground states and now holds an 11 percentage point advantage nationally in the NBC/WSJ/Marist national poll.
But the depressed poll numbers have also led Pence to take two trips to staunchly conservative Utah, where particularly turned-off Mormon voters have turned toward alternative options, including Clinton and Independent Evan McMullin, instead of voting for Trump.
He will hold a rally in the state on Wednesday, telling MSNBC he "wanted to take the opportunity to rally the faithful."
"We’re just going to leave no stone unturned in this election," Pence said. He will also hold campaign events in Nevada and Colorado on his Western swing.
Asked what the Trump campaign’s "firewall" is heading into November, Pence responded, “I think our firewall is the American people."
Pence told a gathering of backers in Swanton, Ohio, on Tuesday to "have a spring in your step," noting the need for the ticket to turn out its base of supporters.
But the vice presidential candidate also indirectly highlighted the troubling reality for the Republican presidential ticket: It is trying to garner the support of GOP voters whose candidates in the GOP primary have still yet to stand by the party’s nominee.
"I think there were like 70 or 80 people running in that primary — I lost count," Pence rehashed for a crowd of several hundred in Swanton on Tuesday. "Wherever you were, whoever you were for, just go out there and tell them it’s time for Republican voters to come home. Come home to vote for the Trump-Pence team."
Yet a slew of Trump’s primary Republican rivals, including Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Lindsay Graham and Carly Fiorina have refused to appear with the top of the ticket.
And with two weeks until Election Day and early ballot voting already well underway, the Indiana governor is in a dash to turn out Republicans to the polls.
"Don’t be fooled — this race is on," Pence said, adding: "Have a spring in your step because, you know what, this election is not in the hands of the pundits and the pollsters and the cable TV show talking heads. This election is in the hands of the American people."