McConnell pledges to support Trump
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R-Ky.) announced Wednesday night that he will back Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE as the Republican Party's presumptive nominee, declaring he can stop “a third term of Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaPatagonia files suit against Trump cuts to Utah monuments Former Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report Eighth Franken accuser comes forward as Dems call for resignation MORE.”

While McConnell had made his skepticism of Trump clear throughout the raucous primary, he also always said he would back the eventual nominee.

“I have committed to supporting the nominee chosen by Republican voters, and Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee, is now on the verge of clinching the nomination,” he said. 

But the GOP leader, who initially endorsed fellow Kentucky Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulLexington mayor launches bid for Congress Trump-free Kennedy Center Honors avoids politics Meet the Iran hawk who could be Trump's next secretary of State MORE for president and then stayed neutral when Paul dropped out, noted that Trump also has an obligation to reach out to Republicans he may have alienated during the campaign.

“As the presumptive nominee, he now has the opportunity and the obligation to unite our party around our goals,” he said.

The biggest goal, in McConnell’s eyes, is to defeat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE, the likely Democratic nominee, and prevent what is largely expected to be a continuation of many of President Obama’s policies if she takes the Oval Office. 

Behind closed doors, McConnell has advised GOP colleagues facing tough reelections to run their own races and not hesitate to distance themselves from the nominee if it helps their chances.  

In December, McConnell criticized Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban foreign Muslims from entering the United States as “inconsistent with American values.” 

He admonished the front-runner earlier this year, urging him to condemn violence at his rallies after protesters were assaulted.  

He told Trump during a phone call in March "that I thought it would be a good idea for him no matter who starts these violent episodes to condemn it." 

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees House Republican: 'I worry about both sides' of the aisle on DACA Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids MORE (R-Wis.) has alluded to his own concerns, urging Republicans to rally around an "inclusive" agenda.

"If we try to play our own version of identity politics and try to fuel ourselves based on darker emotions, that's not productive," he told The New York Times late last year.  

McConnell hinted last year that he would have preferred a candidate viewed as more electable than Trump or Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDebbie Wasserman Schultz marks 10 years as breast cancer survivor Foreign agent registration is no magical shield against Russian propaganda Let Trump be Trump and he'll sail through 2020 MORE (R-Texas), who amassed the second most number of delegates before dropping out of the race Tuesday.

“Unless the nominee for president can carry purple states, he’s not going to get elected,” he told reporters at the end of last year. 

A CNN/ORC poll conducted nationwide at the end of April shows Clinton with a 13-point lead over Trump. The same survey gives Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who dropped out of the race Wednesday, a 7-point lead on Clinton.

Many Republicans are skeptical of Trump’s odds for victory.

“I think the chances of Donald Trump winning the election are the chances of the New York Yankees, and I’m wording this correctly, winning the Super Bowl,” said Michael Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association, an influential conservative activist who will not back Trump.

Already Trump has started to tack to the center in anticipation of the general election. He told CNN on Wednesday that he would consider increasing the minimum wage, a proposal Republicans have panned generally as likely to cost jobs.

“I'm looking at that. I'm very different from most Republicans,” he said.