Back in Washington, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) is trying to steer the ship of his party into much calmer waters. Over the past week, he has given multiple interviews in which his ideas and tone have come across as the opposite of the inflammatory rhetoric and in-fighting taking place among his fellow conservatives vying for the White House — most notably, of course, GOP front-runner Donald Trump.
This, of course, isn't the first time Ryan has offered an alternative course; he denounced Trump in no uncertain terms after the candidate called for a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants. But it's notable that Ryan continues to pretty clearly offer a competing vision for his party that is diametrically opposed to Trump's.
A few examples:
He's admitting 'takers' vs. 'makers' was a bad idea
In 2014, Ryan wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal saying he was wrong for in speeches occasionally dividing Americans into two categories — people on welfare ("the takers") and everyone else ("the makers").
In an interview airing Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation," Ryan didn't hesitate to cop to that.
"Most people don't want to be poor," he told John Dickerson. "Most people don't want to be dependent. And if we speak as if everybody is in this category, that's wrong. And so that's what I did, and I was wrong to do that."
He warns against unbridled — and un-conservative — populism
"I think political correctness has gone way overboard," Ryan told CBS's Dickerson in that same interview. "And that's the new thing in the campaign, which I think is great. But let's just be accurate. Let's be right. ... Let's not have populism that's unattached from our principles."
That's a stark contrast from Republicans, who in a recent debate derided political correctness at nearly every turn. It's also a stark contrast to Trump, who seems to be going the populist route even when it's not a historically conservative position.
He's turning the GOP race to forgotten issues
Ahead of a poverty summit Ryan moderated Saturday in South Carolina that six presidential candidates attended, here's what Ryan told Yahoo News' Katie Couric in an interview:
"After 2012, it became clear to me getting out of Wisconsin, traveling the country in the 2012 campaign, that there are a lotta people hurting in America. The promise of this country isn't something that people see for themselves. That here are generations and communities where people don't believe that this American idea is there for them. And if the American idea is not there for everybody, then it's really not there at all."
He's making grand statements about the party's inclusiveness
Also in that Couric interview:
"This great idea that the condition of your birth doesn't determine the outcome of your life. You can make it in America. A lot of people don't believe that that is there for them anymore. That's a shame. We should be the party to show how we can restore that, that opportunity, that growth, and that security that is such a huge issue these days, given the fight we have with-- with radical Islamic terrorism."
Ryan told Couric that he doesn't mind the drama playing out on the campaign trail — that it's even good for the party. And he has praised Republican candidates for confronting the president.
But Ryan also said that for Republicans to win the presidency, "we have to offer an alternative way forward."
The new House speaker seems to be taking every opportunity to do just that. The question we'll spend the next 10 months trying to answer is: Is anybody listening to him? Or are GOP voters just fine with what they see on the campaign trail and not inclined to buy what Paul is selling?
It's truly, at this point, very much a choice for the GOP between the likes of Ryan and the likes of Trump.