MADISON, Wis. - House Speaker Paul Ryan did it again Friday — he spoke about the choices in this year's elections without uttering the words "Donald Trump."
Four days after privately telling House Republicans that he would no longer defend or campaign for his party's presidential nominee, Ryan, R-Wis., tore into Democrat Hillary Clinton and liberals for pursuing a government-heavy agenda for elites. He said a GOP-run Congress would block at least parts of their plans.
But in nearly 45 minutes of remarks to college Republicans, the closest he came to mentioning Trump was in describing the presidential race's tone and warning students away from behaviour that sounded suspiciously like things that have characterized Trump's now flagging campaign.
"Look, I know this election has taken some dark, sometimes some very dark turns," Ryan said, without elaborating.
He also advised his audience, "Don't get into a personality contest, don't talk about the latest Twitter storm from somebody."
At other moments, he sounded reminiscent of first lady Michelle Obama, who's become a Democratic sensation on the campaign trail of late with advice like, "When they go low, you go high."
"Don't go to emotion and don't impugn another person's emotion," Ryan told the students. "And when that's coming at you, take the high ground."
Ryan's appearance came a week after the release of a 2005 video showing Trump boasting about forcing sexual contact with women, a blockbuster moment in the campaign. It also followed recent reports in which some women have accused Trump of groping them over past decades, claims he has said are false.
Ryan answered questions from the students — who also did not use Trump's name — but did not talk to reporters. Similarly, he delivered remarks Thursday to business people without taking questions afterward.
In recent weeks, many congressional Republicans have avoided using Trump's name, at times using phrases like "our party's nominee." Ryan never mentioned Trump during two brief campaign appearances for House candidates in Pennsylvania last week.
After the Trump video was released, Ryan rescinded an invitation for him to appear at a Wisconsin political event last weekend, though he has not dropped support for Trump.
Trump has responded with tweets suggesting a sinister plot and calling Ryan ineffective, highlighting an extraordinary schism between the senior most elected GOP official and the party's White House candidate. And some GOP lawmakers have threatened to oppose letting Ryan serve as speaker in the new Congress, assuming Republicans remain in control of the House.
Ryan used his remarks to attack Clinton and her Democratic allies, drawing a contrast that many Republicans believe can help their congressional candidates win re-election. Polls show she has surged ahead in the race for the White House, and Ryan has told his fellow House Republicans that he will spend the remaining weeks until the Nov. 8 elections campaigning to help them keep control of the chamber.
He told the students that Democrats want to increase bureaucratic control of peoples' lives and confirm liberal judges and promised, "A Republican Congress will not stand for this."
Ryan said Clinton's "stronger together" slogan actually means, "We are stronger if we are all subject to the state. What she means is we are stronger if we give up our ties of responsibility to one another and hand all of that over to government."
He also pressed for the GOP agenda that he rolled out last summer that focuses on such issues as cutting regulations, overhauling the tax code and replacing President Barack Obama's health care law.
Fram reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Donna Cassata in Washington contributed to this report.