“I feel so sorry for Paul”

Friends and allies, disappointed though many of them are, have tried to show Ryan support in this difficult time. They labor to give him the benefit of the doubt, to rationalize his endorsement — and when they’re defending his honor on the record, they might even find themselves slipping into messianic metaphors.

“I feel so sorry for Paul,” said Bob Woodson, the veteran civil rights activist who mentors Ryan on issues of poverty and race. “He wishes someone else could take the cup from him. … I’d say ‘weary martyr’ is a good way to describe him.”

“I think he endorsed Trump because he tries to see the best in people, and he hoped that his endorsement would be a down payment on a new and improved Trump,” said Katie Packer, a friend of Ryan’s who served as Mitt Romney’s deputy campaign manager in 2012.

“Unfortunately,” she added, Ryan’s policy agenda “has been hijacked by Donald Trump,” and “I think there will be some who find it hard to forgive his support” of the nominee.