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Republican Congressman Optimistic About GOP Unity Under Trump

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The Republican Party is fractured. But after Donald Trump and Paul Ryan met on Thursday morning, they put out a joint statement. They called the meeting a positive step toward unification, but the magic word endorsement wasn't mentioned.

Congressman Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania is a Trump supporter. He's been urging his Republican colleagues in the House to support the party's apparent nominee. Congressman Kelly, thanks for being with us.

MIKE KELLY: Oh, thanks so much, Scott, for having me on. I appreciate it.

SIMON: So from your view, this meeting, is the glass half full or half empty?

KELLY: Do you know what? I'm an optimist. I always think the glass is half full. And I think we're moving to a glass that's going to be overflowing here pretty soon.

SIMON: I think anyone would note that the differences between Mr. Trump and congressional Republicans seem to go beyond the ordinary irritations that can crop up in a tough campaign.

Donald Trump questioned John McCain's war heroism. He suggested that Senator Ted Cruz's father was involved with the Kennedy assassination. He slurred Senator Cruz's wife. What do you say to colleagues who just say, I'm sorry, our nominee just shouldn't be someone who talks like that?

KELLY: Well, you know, and I've heard that from a number of people. And I've said to them, look, you know what, not asking you to fall in love with him. Let's just fall in line as a party because we're facing now the greatest challenge I think we've seen, not just as a party but our country.

And I'm more concerned with a Never Hillary (laughter) than a Never Trump. And I just don't understand how an Obama, Clinton or Sanders agenda would be good for the country. And I'm just thinking right now for our country, we need to come together. For our party, we need to come together.

SIMON: Republicans have called Donald Trump a demagogue and a racist - prominent Republicans - for statements on mass deportations, Mexican immigrants and barring Muslims from the United States. What do you say to them?

KELLY: The real problem is not Donald Trump - seven and a half years of Barack Obama and his agenda. Clear thinking people - and I'm talking about people who are in the middle, not people that are really burrowed in and would never, ever be a Democrat or never ever be a Republican - are looking at it and they're saying, is my life better? Is our country stronger? Do we have a strong standing in the world? Is this economy recovering? Is it a dynamic and robust economy?

Because we know without a dynamic and robust economy, all the other talk is just talk. We've got to have people back to work. We've got to have people looking forward to getting up in the morning and going to work. We got to have people that feel that America really is the leader of the world.

And I just am saying to my Republican friends, look, I get it. I understand that there's certain things that he's said that really you can't ever look that way, but take a look. We're still months away from the election.

SIMON: Mr. Kelly, if you were advising Donald Trump - and, you know, he might hear this - is there some magic sentence that he could come up with that would - that would help heal things over?

KELLY: I think he's already worked in that direction. I - I've never met Mr. Trump, by the way, but I have been watching him. I've watched a Donald Trump who's different today than the Donald Trump I saw three or four weeks ago. I think he is a man who does understand messaging. He understands talking to people.

And as I said earlier, Mr. Trump's success was not based just on his own ability and his own talent. It was working with many other people to get to something that was mutually beneficial. I've watched Mr. Ryan. And I said before, he has more depth than the Pacific Ocean when it comes to policy, but he also works well with people to get to some common ground that makes sense. I would just say this - and Donald Trump doesn't need any advice from Mike Kelly. Paul Ryan doesn't need any advice from Mike Kelly.

But I really do think those two men, because of their backgrounds and what they've already shown that they can do, are two people that I place great faith in going forward. I think it's going to be a great election. I think it's going to be a great time for our country, and it's going to be a great time for our people. And they are going to have the ability to make a really distinct choice when it comes to who they vote for November the 8.

SIMON: Congressman Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, thanks so much.

KELLY: Thank you, Scott, I appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.