McConnell pledges to support Trump
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate GOP blocks voting rights bill Schumer, McConnell spar as GOP prepares to block voting bill Trump has 'zero desire' to be Speaker, spokesman says MORE (R-Ky.) announced Wednesday night that he will back Donald TrumpDonald TrumpGuardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa wins GOP primary in NYC mayor's race Garland dismisses broad review of politicization of DOJ under Trump Schumer vows next steps after 'ridiculous,' 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster MORE as the Republican Party's presumptive nominee, declaring he can stop “a third term of Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama: Voting rights bill must pass before next election The world's most passionate UFO skeptic versus the government Biden plans to host Obama for portrait unveiling that Trump skipped: report 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. 

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But the GOP leader, who initially endorsed fellow Kentucky Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulPoll: 58 percent say Fauci should not resign Fauci says he puts 'very little weight in the craziness of condemning me' Senate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior 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 ClintonThe Memo: Some Democrats worry rising crime will cost them The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats await Manchin decision on voting rights bill Supreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda 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 RyanCutting critical family support won't solve the labor crisis Juan Williams: Trump's GOP descends into farce Now we know why Biden was afraid of a joint presser with Putin 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 CruzSenate Republicans: Newly proposed ATF rules could pave way for national gun registry DeSantis tops Trump in 2024 presidential straw poll White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE (R-Texas), who amassed the second most number of delegates before dropping out of the race Tuesday.

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“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.