Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a sign of establishment Republicans coming around and warming to the idea of a Donald Trump presidency, admitted the billionaire businessman has been largely underestimated and recent polls do indeed underscore what the candidate himself has been saying all along – that he can beat likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton come November.
That’s a bit different than the attitude the Kentucky senator displayed in April, when he told a CNN audience – without naming Trump – that a second vote at the Republican convention would be the desired outcome.
“When a nominee gets to 1,237, he will actually be the candidate,” McConnell said then, on CNN. “If he doesn’t, there will be a second ballot. And about 60 percent of the delegates who are bound on the first ballot will be free to do what they want to on a second ballot. And I’m increasingly optimistic that there may actually be a second ballot.”
He then spoke of how “some candidates” have complained how it was “somehow tricky to follow the rules of the convention,” but regardless, “we are going to follow the rules of the convention.”
And his newfound, albeit tepid, support for Trump is radically different from how he presented in February, when the New York Times reported how McConnell was part of a Republican coalition to press lawmakers to back someone other than the billionaire during a general election. As the Daily Caller put it, McConnell told fellow Republicans during a members’ weekly lunch “they will drop GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump ‘like a hot rock,'” and it was quite OK to run negative advertisements against him if he makes it as the nominee and then threatens their own re-election efforts.
McConnell said he’s optimistic of Trump’s chances, given new Quinnipiac University poll numbers that put him in a dead heat with Clinton in Florida, and Pennsylvania, and beating the Democrat by four points in Ohio.
“It looks to me like at the beginning of the race, Florida and Pennsylvania and Ohio look pretty competitive,” McConnell said, the Hill reported.
He then said he was looking forward to meeting with Trump on Thursday at the National Senatorial Campaign Committee office.
“I think most of my members believe he’s won the nomination the old fashioned way,” McConnell said, the Hill reported. “He got more votes than anybody else and we respect the voices of the Republican primary voters across the country, and we’ll sit down and talk about the way forward.”
McConnell also predicted the party would unite behind Trump because “we know Hillary Clinton will be four more years of Barack Obama [and] I think that’s going to, in the end, be enough to unify Republicans across the country.”