McConnell pledges to support Trump
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell in talks with Mnuchin on next phase of coronavirus relief Pelosi: 'We shouldn't even be thinking' about reopening schools without federal aid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Argentum - All eyes on Florida as daily COVID-19 cases hit 15K MORE (R-Ky.) announced Wednesday night that he will back Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWayfair refutes QAnon-like conspiracy theory that it's trafficking children Stone rails against US justice system in first TV interview since Trump commuted his sentence Federal appeals court rules Trump admin can't withhold federal grants from California sanctuary cities MORE as the Republican Party's presumptive nominee, declaring he can stop “a third term of Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama: 'Voting by mail shouldn't be a partisan issue' How cable TV and sensationalized crime reporting led to 'cancel culture' Judge again blocks US from resuming federal executions 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 PaulTop White House aide shares cartoon mocking Fauci 'Live with it' is the new GOP response to COVID — but no, we can't do that Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads 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 ClintonHillicon Valley: Wells Fargo tells employees to delete TikTok from work phones | Google, Facebook join legal challenge to ICE foreign students rule | House Republican introduces bills to bolster federal cybersecurity Biden lets Trump be Trump 4 Texas GOP congressional primary runoffs to watch 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 RyanBush, Romney won't support Trump reelection: NYT Twitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here's why Lobbying world 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 CruzThe Hill's Campaign Report: Runoff elections in Texas, Alabama set for Tuesday American Airlines reviewing photographs of Sen. Cruz on flight without a mask 4 Texas GOP congressional primary runoffs to watch 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.