Split ticket: Pence endorses Ryan after Trump declines

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence on Wednesday endorsed House Speaker Paul Ryan for re-election, breaking with running mate Donald Trump -- who said just a day earlier he was "not quite there yet" when asked if he would support Ryan in his primary race.

“I strongly support Paul Ryan, strongly support his re-election,” the Indiana governor told Fox News.

"He’s a long-time friend," Pence said. "He’s a strong conservative leader. I believe we need Paul Ryan in leadership in the Congress of the United States to rebuild our military, to strengthen our economy and to ensure that we have the kind of leadership in this country that will make America great again.”

Ryan faces businessman Paul Nehlen in next Tuesday's primary election.

Pence did not criticize Trump for holding back his support for the incumbent. But the remarks are a striking contrast with what Trump had said Tuesday in an interview with The Washington Post, when he declined to endorse the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee.

“I like Paul. I like Paul. But these are horrible times for our country. We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there. I’m not quite there yet,” Trump said.

Trump’s repetition of the phrase “not quite there yet,” which he used four times in the interview, echoed Ryan’s own hesitancy to back Trump. When asked if he would endorse the billionaire, Ryan told CNN in May: "I'm just not ready to do that at this point. I'm not there right now.”

Trump’s refusal to endorse Ryan, as well as Trump critic and Arizona Sen. John McCain, has reportedly caused frustration among top Republicans, some of whom are planning an “intervention” after a rough few days in the news cycle for the billionaire.

Pence sought to dampen the flames of controversy somewhat when he spoke to Fox News, saying Trump and Ryan are “building a good relationship.”

“Well, I think what Donald Trump said is he’s not there yet. These are two men that are building a good relationship,” Pence said. “And I’m very confident after Donald Trump’s elected president and Paul Ryan’s re-elected to Congress and to speaker of the House, these two men are going to do great things to restore this country at home and abroad.”

Pence also claimed that he had spoken to Trump about his friendship with Ryan, and his intention to endorse. He said Trump “strongly encouraged me to endorse” Ryan.