GREEN BAY, Wis./WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican Donald Trump acted to steer his White House campaign back into favor with his party’s establishment on Friday by endorsing U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and two Republican senators seeking re-election, after expressing coolness toward them earlier this week.
“I need a Republican Senate and a House to accomplish all of the changes that we have to make,” Trump said during a rally in Green Bay, in northern Wisconsin, Ryan’s home state. He also endorsed Senators John McCain of Arizona and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, calling Ayotte a “rising star.”
“We will have disagreements, but we will disagree as friends,” Trump said,
Trump earlier this week refused to endorse Ryan, telling The Washington Post he was “not quite there yet” – nearly the same phrase Ryan had used about Trump before finally endorsing him. Trump said in the same interview that McCain had not done enough for veterans and criticized Ayotte for distancing herself from him during the campaign.
Ryan, the top U.S. elected Republican, had no plans to attend the Wisconsin event, a sign of lingering frictions between the pair, even though Trump‘s running mate, Mike Pence, did endorse him. Ryan’s Republican primary challenger, businessman Paul Nehlen, did attend, according to a spokesman.
Ryan is expected to win the challenge for his House seat in next week’s Republican primary, and he is viewed by many Republicans as a possible presidential candidate in the future. The tension between Ryan and Trump caused deep frustration among party leaders and lawmakers.
Trump‘s endorsement came as one of several steps to get his campaign back on track after days of controversy and falling poll numbers that have given Democrat Hillary Clinton the advantage in the race to the Nov. 8 election.
In the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Friday, Clinton’s lead over Trump narrowed to less than 3 percentage points, down from nearly 8 points on Monday.
Trump said on Friday he wanted a “big tent” party with multiple viewpoints welcome. He said he was endorsing the Republican lawmakers due to their “shared mission to make America great again.”
Trump also announced a new advisory team to help guide him on economic policy. The group relies heavily on hedge fund managers and investment bankers, a group Trump has railed against. There are no women on the team.
Trump plans to release his economic policy framework in a speech in Detroit on Monday, an event that will offer him a chance to avoid theatrics and detail how he would handle economic issues if elected.
Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore told Reuters that the candidate’s plan would focus on four areas: tax, deregulation, energy policy and trade. “It’s going to be an all-encompassing look at how we reform the economy,” Moore said.
At events in Des Moines, Iowa, and Green Bay, Trump showed discipline that is unusual at his often free-wheeling rallies, calling Clinton the “queen of corruption” and defending himself against her charge that he is temperamentally unfit for the White House.
“All my life I’ve been told, ‘You have the greatest temperament,'” he said in Des Moines. He also said voters should consider supporting him because of Pence, who appeared with him at both events.
“If you don’t like me, that’s okay. Vote for Pence because it’s the same thing,” Trump said.
Trump bashed the media as well, saying reporters over-hyped an incident earlier in the week and claimed he kicked a baby out of an event in Virginia. “I love babies,” he said.
Clinton sought to take advantage of Trump‘s dip in the polls at a conference of minority journalists in Washington, where she pledged an all-out fight for comprehensive immigration reform.
And she did what she has rarely done during the presidential campaign: take questions from reporters.
She addressed two of the largest issues that continue to dog her campaign: the controversy over her use of a private email server while she was U.S. secretary of state and continuing skepticism among voters about her trustworthiness.
Clinton conceded that she had “short-circuited” earlier in the week in interviews when she had asserted that FBI director James Comey had concluded that she had been truthful in her statements about use of the private server.
Clinton had repeatedly said she never sent emails containing classified material, a finding that Comey contradicted at the conclusion of the FBI’s probe in July, when he rebuked her for “extremely careless” handling of classified information while recommending that no criminal charges be filed.
On Friday, Clinton maintained, “I never sent or received anything marked classified,” while acknowledging that some material she sent may retroactively have been considered classified by other government agencies.
Republicans have repeatedly charged that Clinton endangered national security with her handling of classified material.
The email controversy has fueled a perception among a majority of voters that Clinton is untrustworthy. “I take it seriously,” she said. Still, as she has often done during her career, Clinton attributed much of her low standing on this issue to attacks from Republicans.
FINANCE AND INDUSTRY LEADERS
Trump‘s campaign said his economic advisory panel included former steel executive Dan DiMicco; Howard Lorber, CEO of tobacco company Vector Group Ltd <VGR.N>; and Trumpcampaign finance chairman and investment manager Steven Mnuchin.
Hedge fund managers John Paulson and Steve Feinberg, Moore, the Trump economic adviser, and David Malpass, who has served in previous Republican administrations, were also named.
Trump‘s moves came after many Republicans urged the candidate to correct course following a tumultuous week.
The real estate mogul and former reality television star was caught up for days in a public spat with the parents of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq. The parents had criticized Trump at last week’s Democratic National Convention. Many Republicans, including Ryan, McCain and Ayotte, were critical of Trump‘s insistent attacks on the pair.
(Writing by Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Frances Kerry and Leslie Adler)
Photo: Republican U.S. Presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign event at Briar Woods High School in Ashburn, Virginia, U.S., August 2, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Thayer