The sooner Paul Ryan understands the 2016 election isn't about him, the sooner the Republicans can put the party's infighting behind them and focus on the big prizes -- the presidency\ and, by extension, the future of the Supreme Court and the future direction of the country.
The Speaker of the House sounded like he was in a romantic relationship, not the nominal leader of a major political party, when he spoke about the prospect of endorsing Republican nominee Donald Trump.
"I'm just not ready to do that at this point. I'm not there right now," Ryan said. "And I hope to. And I want to, but I think what is required is that we unify this party."
When Ryan elaborated on his point, he started making more sense. What's holding him back from fully getting on board The Donald Train is the businessman-turned-politician's blunt, often disdainful rhetoric when it comes to pretty much everyone who doesn't agree with or support him.
That's a valid concern.
Even Trump's most ardent supporters would admit the former reality TV star doesn't exactly fit the definition of "presidential," and if he's going to assume the highest office in the land, he's going to have to tone down his rhetoric. Before then, in fact, if he wants to appeal to the independent voters he'll need to defeat the presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
There is a certain decorum expected of the leader of the free world, and it isn't only for show -- a president's words can have an enormous impact on delicate diplomatic negotiations, they can chafe the egos of other heads of state, and lead to misunderstandings that could cause problems for the U.S. A president's words can sink stock markets and impact policy on the other side of the world.
But here's the thing: Donald Trump is the GOP nominee. Nothing Ryan says or does is going to change that fact. As Trump himself likes to point out, a record number of primary voters have supported him. Ryan isn't in a position to tell voters that they're wrong.
The Speaker says he wants to unify the Republican party, and that begins with him. Recognize Trump as the nominee. And from there, effect change.
For all Trump's bluster and the invective he directs at people he doesn't like, he's shown he can be incredibly forgiving, and those who've dealt with him say he's gracious, attentive and diplomatic in person.
If Republican leaders get behind Trump and show him they will support him as the party's nominee, all indications are that he will listen to them if they tell him to tone down his rhetoric. Especially if Trump knows that the party's power brokers have united behind him, and are speaking candidly out of concern for his campaign.
Trump, who likes to describe himself as a dealmaker, would be willing to welcome Ryan and other major GOP figures into the fold. But he's also made it clear that he doesn't need them, which means Ryan and others who are dragging their feet should reach out to Trump's campaign if they want to have a say in where things go from here.
"I think it would be better if [the Republican party] were unified, I think it would be -- there would be something good about it," Trump told ABC. "But I don't think it actually has to be unified in the traditional sense."
And there's the real message. By nominating Trump, Republican voters have delivered an unambiguous message to GOP leaders. It's time for change, and the old party leaders can either get with the new direction, or be left in the dust.