WASHINGTON -- The meeting between Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday seemed to have everything: protestors, a full media circus, a joint statement, even a post-meeting press conference with Ryan.
But there was one glaring omission: the speaker's endorsement of the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.
In a joint statement, Ryan and Trump characterized the discussion as a “positive step toward unification” and said they were “totally committed to working together” to win back the White House in November.
"The United States cannot afford another four years of the Obama White House, which is what Hillary Clinton represents," the joint statement began, making it clear where Ryan really stands.
The two men may have vastly different positions on taxes, immigration and trade. And they may differ on tone -- Ryan has sought a more inclusive approach, while Trump favors antagonism -- but it's clear they see each other as members of the same party.
Last week, Ryan said he was "not ready" yet to endorse the brash businessman. The speaker said the GOP needed a “standard-bearer that bears our standards” before he could do so. The meeting on Thursday, as well as the statement, appeared to be laying down a path for Ryan to do so in the future.
“I think we had a very encouraging meeting," the speaker told reporters during a Thursday press conference, adding that both camps would meet in coming weeks to "go a little bit deeper into the policy." Trump, he added, has a "very good personality" and is a "very warm and genuine person" -- two descriptors not often used for the real estate mogul.
Ryan also mentioned that he and Trump discussed issues like abortion, the Supreme Court and "self-government." (According to Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong, they also discussed the tone of Trump's campaign.)
"I was very encouraged with what I heard from Donald Trump today," Ryan said. "I do believe that we are now planting the seeds to get ourselves unified."
Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus, who sat in on the meeting, also cast the sit-down in a positive light. In an interview on MSNBC, Priebus said it fostered a "mood of cooperation and a feeling like it's time to unite the party." But he declined to name a specific issue where Ryan and Trump came to agreement.
Even before the event began, the choreography of the Trump-Ryan sit-down was well known.
At 9 a.m., Ryan and Trump would meet for 30 minutes with Priebus. At 9:30, the rest of House GOP leadership -- Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), and Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) -- would come in for another 30-minute meeting or so. Everyone would be congenial. The meeting would be cordial, maybe even convivial.
At 11:30 a.m., Ryan would go to his regularly scheduled press conference and issue positive, but reserved, sentiments. He would be clear that he's trying to make the best of the situation, that this meeting with Trump is part of an ongoing process toward an endorsement -- toward unifying the party! -- but he still could not endorse Trump.
Ryan and Trump met for about an hour. Trump then met with the rest of House GOP leadership for another 45-50 minutes.
Eager to capitalize on the fissure in the GOP, the campaign of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton released a statement later gleefully noting Ryan was now one of the many Republicans "continuing to acknowledge that a President Trump would be too big a risk."
But Ryan put on a brave face, acknowledging on Thursday that unifying the party is a process that simply "takes a little time."
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist