McConnell pushes Trump to change

McConnell pushes Trump to change
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem candidates sell policy as smart politics Overnight Defense: Trump ends sanctions waivers for buying Iranian oil | At least four Americans killed in Sri Lanka attacks | Sanders pushes for Yemen veto override vote McConnell: 'Time to move on' from Trump impeachment talk MORE (R-Ky.) is growing increasingly critical of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers MORE, warning him to lay off GOP officials and drop his penchant for “name calling.” 

McConnell, who endorsed Trump, has been granting a steady stream of interviews to create buzz for his new book “The Long Game.” In the process, he’s leveled some sharp criticism at his party’s presumptive nominee.

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Asked about Trump’s tendency to lash out at other Republicans, McConnell retorted, it “ought to stop.” 

"I don't like that,” he told a Baltimore radio station. “I don't think it adds any value whatsoever to the discourse. And it is something about him that I don't care for.”

He added to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that when it comes to Trump, he is “in favor of more scripts, more boring.”

The two Republicans are a study in opposites. McConnell is strategic and disciplined, while Trump has ruffled the feathers of GOP elites with his brash, unpredictable rhetoric. 

McConnell has made clear he’d like Trump to get more disciplined, and has taken particular umbrage at the candidate’s tendency to lash out at members of the GOP.

During a recent rally in New Mexico, Trump lambasted home-state Gov. Susana Martinez, one of the most prominent Hispanics in the GOP. 

“Your governor has got to do a better job. She’s not doing the job,” Trump said.  

McConnell has repeatedly come to Martinez’s aid in interviews, telling MSNBC that the attacks on her are “unfortunate and unnecessary.”

The pushback is a marked shift for the leader, who has been known to brush off Trump questions from reporters in the Capitol.

Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, tamped down any speculation the comments reflected a change in approach toward Trump. Asked if reporters should now expect that the Republican would use his weekly press conference to criticize the presumptive nominee, he replied “nope.”

The public criticism comes as some members of McConnell’s caucus push party leadership to embrace their presumptive nominee. Freshman Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that it’s time for the party to “let Trump be Trump.”

McConnell and Trump preached party unity after meeting in Washington, but the Kentucky Republican has made clear that Trump wasn’t his first choice.

After telling a Kentucky TV station he was hopeful the Republican race would go to a second ballot at the convention, he issued a tepid endorsement once Trump was the last man standing.

McConnell has said he’s worried that Trump could drive Hispanic voters away from the GOP, which could prove disastrous for Republicans in several states.

The Senate leader has even compared Trump to 1964 nominee Barry Goldwater, who led the GOP to a crushing defeat.

“That was a complete shift that occurred that year. We've never been able to get them back,” McConnell told CNN, referring to the loss of African American voters. Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act.

Trump has high unfavorability numbers with Hispanics, having stirred controversy by saying Mexico was sending “rapists” and “drug dealers” across the border.

Still, McConnell has praised Trump for winning his party's nomination, and told NPR that the party is "at an all-time high." 

He's also framed the 2016 election as a referendum on the Obama administration. McConnell said Trump is more palatable than Democratic front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump rips Krugman, NYT after columnist writes GOP no longer believes in American values Klobuchar jokes to Cuomo: 'I feel you creeping over my shoulder' but 'not in a Trumpian manner' Dems seek to rein in calls for impeachment MORE, who he argues would set up a third term for Obama. 

Voters “have a choice, a choice between two very unpopular candidates, very unpopular,” he told CNN.

McConnell’s balancing act with Trump underscores the challenges he faces as he tries to hold onto a Senate GOP majority and defend 24 seats in November, including a handful in states previously carried by Obama.

Trying to put distance between the political fate of his caucus and Trump’s unpredictable campaign, McConnell is downplaying the impact that the businessman might have on other candidates. He told Fox News’s  “The Kelly File” that it will be a “ticket-splitting kind of year,” meaning people who vote against Trump might still vote for other Republican candidates.

He’s also making the case that Republican control of the Senate would serve as a check on Trump should he win the White House.

“What protects us in this country against big mistakes being made is the structure, the Constitution, the institutions,” he told CBS. “No matter how unusual a personality may be who gets elected to office, there are constraints in this country. You don’t get to do anything you want to.”

Democrats are pledging that McConnell and his vulnerable GOP incumbents won’t be able to escape Trump’s shadow. 

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has been chronicling McConnell’s media tour as “a (week) in the life of Mitch McConnell and the party of Trump.” Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSanders courts GOP voters with 'Medicare for All' plan Glamorization of the filibuster must end Schumer won't rule out killing filibuster MORE (D-Nev.) — who called Trump the GOP’s “Frankenstein” — is pledging to link McConnell and GOP senators to every controversial comment that Trump makes. 

Democrats need to pick up four Senate seats to win control of the majority in November if they also retain the White House.

After McConnell avoided weighing on Trump’s criticism of a federal judge’s Mexican heritage, Reid fired back that “it shouldn't be hard to condemn someone for making racist comments about a Mexican judge.”