Trump endorses Ryan, McCain and Ayotte after initial reluctance

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump endorsed three top GOP officeholders — House Speaker Paul Ryan, Arizona Sen. John McCain and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte — for re-election Friday night after declining to do so earlier this week.

Trump announced his endorsements at an event in Ryan's home state of Wisconsin four days before the Speaker faces challenger Paul Nehlen in a primary election.

Appearing to read from a prepared statement, Trump called Ryan "a good man" and "a good guy."

"We will have disagreements," Trump said. "But we will disagree as friends and never stop working together toward victory and real change."

"I need a Republican Senate and a House to accomplish all the changes we have to make," added Trump, who also said "my 80 percent friend is not my 20 percent enemy," a phrase often attributed to Ronald Reagan.

Nehlen issued a statement calling Trump's endorsement of Ryan "appropriate" and "a display of true leadership" as the Republican nominee. However, Nehlen also said that Trump's initial refusal to back Ryan "sent a clear signal to Wisconsin voters that Ryan is not his preferred candidate in this race" and claimed the Speaker had "undermined our nominee at every turn."

Trump initially refused to back Ryan in an interview with The Washington Post earlier this week.

“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 at the time.

Trump’s phrasing echoed statements Ryan had made in May, when the Speaker said of endorsing Trump, "I'm just not ready to do that at this point. I'm not there right now."

While giving Trump his support, Ryan has frequently been critical of some of the billionaire’s most controversial statements. On Thursday, he said that it was “distressing” that Trump hadn’t spent more time focusing on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“He’s had a pretty strange run since the convention,” Ryan said on WTAQ radio in Green Bay. “You would think that we want to be focusing on Hillary Clinton, on all of her deficiencies. She is such a weak candidate that one would think that we would be on offense against Hillary Clinton, and it is distressing that that’s not what we’re talking about these days.”

Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, had endorsed Ryan Thursday, and said he had been encouraged to do so by Trump.

Trump also said earlier this week that he had "never been a big fan of John McCain." The 79-year-old McCain, who Trump has disparaged in the past, faces two primary opponents later this month.

On Friday, however, Trump said he held McCain "in the highest esteem" and "I fully support and endorse his re-election."

Trump also endorsed Ayotte, calling the New Hampshire senator "a rising star." On Tuesday, Trump told the Post that Ayotte had given him "no support — zero support," later adding "We need loyal people in this country. We need fighters in this country. We don't need weak people."

A poll taken this week shows Ayotte trailing her Democratic opponent, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, by 10 points in the race for Ayotte's Senate seat.

Fox's Adam Shaw contributed to this report.