Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said Thursday following a closely watched meeting that it is necessary to unite in order to defeat Democrats in the November general election.
Amid a rift in the Republican party over its presumptive presidential nominee, Trump headed to Washington for a series of meetings designed to woo the party leaders he has been quick to attack on the campaign trail.
In a joint statement, the two called the meeting "a very positive step toward unification."
"The United States cannot afford another four years of the Obama White House, which is what Hillary Clinton represents," Trump and Ryan said.
"That is why it's critical that Republicans unite around our shared principles, advance a conservative agenda, and do all we can to win this fall."
Trump and Ryan had a "great conversation" and were "honest about our few differences" while recognizing "important areas of common ground," the statement said.
Ryan later described the meeting as "encouraging," but stressed that it was only the start of an effort to unify the party after a long, bitter primary campaign.
Ryan, the top Republican in Congress, sought to downplay stark policy differences between himself and Trump on issues such as health care reform for the elderly and taxes, instead pointing to shared core principles within the Republican Party.
"This is a process, we just began this process," said Ryan, who last week said he could not yet endorse the candidate and again stopped short of doing so despite stressing the need for party unity.
Ryan pointed to Trump's success in bringing new voters to the party and said Republicans must work to add more voters without losing existing supporters.
Republican chairman Reince Preibus, who has called on the party to unify, wrote on Twitter that the meeting "was a very positive step toward party unity."
Ahead of Thursday's meeting, Ryan had said it would not be wise to "pretend we're unified as a party" without addressing the underlying issues.
Trump's caustic style and deviation from traditional party orthodoxy on issues such as trade and taxes has splintered the Republicans, and it remains unclear whether he will be able to unify the party.
Trump has indicated little willingness to back down from his fiery campaign rhetoric.
Ryan, who was the party's vice presidential candidate alongside Mitt Romney four years ago, has sought to convey an image as an affable policy-focused politician.
Romney has also been outspoken against Trump and went after him Wednesday for refusing to release his tax returns.
Ryan has expressed reservations about many of Trump's positions, but must also worry about Republicans maintaining control of Congress.
The elections, now in less than six months, will see voters electing all 435 members of the House and one-third of the Senate. Less obviously, many states will hold elections for the governors and state legislators who will eventually decide the House district maps into the next decade.
Some Republicans fear that Trump's nationalistic, nativist and protectionist leanings could sap the enthusiasm of the Republican base while spurring minority turnout for Democrats in key states.