McConnell: Don't ask me about Trump

As GOP senators scramble to survey the damage caused by Donald TrumpDonald TrumpPence: Supreme Court has chance to right 'historic wrong' with abortion ruling Prosecutor says during trial that actor Jussie Smollett staged 'fake hate crime' Overnight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table MORE's explicit comments about women, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table Senate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo On The Money — Biden stresses calm amid omicron fears MORE had some direct advice for a local Kentucky group: Don't ask him about the presidential election. 

"If you are interested in the presidential election, you might as well go ahead and leave because I don't have any observations to make about it," McConnell said Monday at a Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce luncheon, according to The Associated Press. 
 
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The Republican leader — who frequently ignores or sidesteps questions about Trump from reporters in the Capitol — said on Monday that luncheon attendees shouldn't ask him about the presidential race "even though that's what I know you all wanted me to talk about today." 
 
The pronounced silence is part of a fierce political backlash against Trump after The Washington Post published a recording of the GOP presidential nominee making explicit comments in 2005 about trying to have sex with women. 
 
 
But, according to the AP, McConnell ignored a question after Monday's speech about what advice he is giving senators up for reelection on how to handle the political fallout and at one point asked a women to stop recording his Chamber of Commerce speech. 
 
How to handle Trump's remarks has sparked division among Republicans. More than a dozen senators have either rescinded their support of the GOP nominee or called on him to step aside, but a handful of those in tough races — including Sens. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrTexas Democrat Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson announces retirement at end of term On The Money — IRS chief calls for reinforcements Burr brother-in-law ordered to testify in insider trading probe MORE (N.C.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioWisconsinites need infrastructure that is built to last  Republicans struggle to save funding for Trump's border wall Rubio: Dropping FARC from terrorist list threatens Colombians, US security MORE (Fla.) — have stuck by Trump so far. 
 
McConnell added that, as the Senate's top Republican, his comments "no matter where I make them, are immediately sort of spun around the world, and I don't have anything to add on the presidential race today."
 
The Kentucky Republican has repeatedly noted that his observation — made over the August recess to a local group in Louisville — that the GOP's chances of keeping the Senate are "dicey" were quickly picked up by national media. 
 
McConnell initially weighed in on Trump's remarks on Friday, saying he should take "full responsibility" for his comments. There's been no indication that the Senate Republican leader has more to say on Trump's remarks. 
 
Senate Republicans have walked a fine line on Trump. While they are quick to break with his more controversial statements, they've also refused to cut ties with him at the risk of endangering the base of supporters they will need to win reelection and potentially keep control of the Senate. 
 
Republicans are defending 24 Senate seats, including a handful in states previously won by President Obama. Democrats need to net five — or four if they also retain the White House — to take back the majority.
 
Trump almost immediately swiped back at Ryan for his cooling support Monday, saying on Twitter: "Paul Ryan should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting [the] Republican nominee."