McConnell urges Trump to condemn violence at rallies

McConnell urges Trump to condemn violence at rallies
© Haiyun Jiang

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellThe Memo: Winners and losers from the battle over health care GOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Under pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support MORE (R-Ky.) has urged Republican presidential front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpBiden: I regret not running for president De Blasio blames Trump for 'dynamic of hatred' in US Dem to Trump: 'You truly are an evil man' MORE to condemn the violence that has erupted at his rallies.

"I mentioned to him that I thought it would be a good idea for him no matter who starts these violent episodes to condemn it," McConnell told reporters on Tuesday.

McConnell spoke just hours after Trump called him as part of the candidate's effort to win backing from the Republican establishment and help unify the party.

His comments are a sign that the clashes between Trump supporters and protestors are worrying Senate GOP leaders. 

McConnell, when asked, declined to say what needing a reminder to condemn violence said about Trump's temperament.
"I thought one of the things you guys had learned is that I'm pretty good at not answering questions I don't want to answer," he told reporters.
“It’s nice McConnell said something publicly, but it should have started a long time ago,” he said.

A Trump supporter was caught on camera last week striking a black protester at a rally. Police said they arrested the man from the video.

Trump has largely downplayed the brawls, but he canceled campaign rallies over the weekend because of the likelihood of violent disruptions. He has also blamed the confrontations on organized protestors backing Bernie SandersBernie SandersMichael Moore warns Dems: Now is not the time to gloat Warren: 'Today is a great day... but I'm not doing a touchdown dance' Sanders: Canceled ObamaCare repeal vote 'major victory' for working class MORE's presidential campaign.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinThe Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch rewrites playbook for confirmation hearings Gorsuch: I'm 'sorry' for ruling against autistic student MORE (Ill.) suggested that Trump is purposely trying to stir up angry reactions from opponents through his choice of venues for rallies.

Durbin noted that the event Trump canceled Friday at the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion seemed intended to provoke controversy.

“Trump picked what may be the most diverse urban campus in America,” he said, noting about 30 percent of the students are Hispanic. “Trump I don’t think was naive about that choice. He knew it was going to be a volatile environment.” 

Trump's rise has unnerved many Republicans, who believe he could cost the party at the ballot box in the fall. 

It's a particular concern for McConnell. His Senate conference is defending 24 seats, many of them in states President Obama won in his last two elections.

Trump has talked with Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP lawmaker: Time to work with Dems on healthcare Pence: Trump 'won't rest' until ObamaCare repealed Hannity: Healthcare bill 'not President Trump's failure' MORE (R-Wis.) and other GOP power brokers, but McConnell, who is in many ways Trump's polar opposite in terms of personality and politics, has kept his distance.

A weak candidate at the top of the GOP ticket could hurt the party in the fall elections and cost McConnell his job as majority leader. 

Only one GOP senator is backing Trump for president, Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsSanders: 'What do the Russians have on Mr. Trump?' Poll: Trump controversies make him more popular among supporters More than ever, Justice must demand a special prosecutor for Trump-Russia probe MORE (R-Ala.). 

Trump is competing Tuesday in primaries in Ohio, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Missouri. 

Victories in winner-take-all Florida and Ohio would greatly increase the likelihood that he will win the party's nomination. Trump is a huge favorite to win Florida's 99 delegates. In Ohio, he is in a tight race with the state's governor, John Kasich. 

Even with a loss in Ohio, Trump will remain the favorite to become the party's standard-bearer, though it's possible a final decision on that won't be made until the Republican National Convention this July in Cleveland.