Senate Republicans ask Trump to soften his tone

Senate Republicans ask Trump to soften his tone
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans told Donald TrumpDonald TrumpWendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Senate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Former acting Defense secretary under Trump met with Jan. 6 committee: report MORE at Thursday’s private meeting that he needs to soften his tone ahead of the general election.

The presidential hopeful's combative style revs up his supporters but also turns off many voters, especially women, Republicans believe.

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Trump acknowledged their worries and explained that the thousands of people who attend his rallies expect him to be fired up and not to stick to the scripted lines of a conventional politician.

In raising the concerns, Senate GOP leaders took pains to do so very politely so as not to put their party’s presumptive nominee on the defensive, according to sources familiar with the hour-long meeting that took place Thursday at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnell​​Democrats make voting rights push ahead of Senate consideration Hogan won't say if he will file to run for Senate by Feb. 22 deadline Voting rights, Trump's Big Lie, and Republicans' problem with minorities MORE (R-Ky.) later praised it as a “very good, constructive meeting.”

McConnell and his caucus have more than the presidential election at stake with Trump. They think their fragile Senate majority is also in the balance.

Some Republicans worry that Trump’s pugilistic style, while popular with a segment of the electorate, may turn off some swing voters.

Senators attending the meeting said they saw a different side of Trump on Thursday.

“He was personable and listened, which is something I think is very important,” said Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynAll hostages free, safe after hours-long standoff at Texas synagogue: governor McConnell will run for another term as leader despite Trump's attacks Republicans threaten floor takeover if Democrats weaken filibuster  MORE (R-Texas). 

Aside from the sober talk on the tone of the campaign, one lawmaker described the meeting as “convivial.”

Trump tweeted that he had a “great meeting with @SenateMajLdr Mitch McConnell and Republican leaders in D.C.” and posted a picture of himself listening to McConnell intently at the NRSC.

Cornyn also tweeted a picture of himself standing next to Trump, who is flashing a big grin and a thumbs-up sign. 

The second-ranking Senate Republican said the issue of tone was raised during the meeting, and that Trump signaled he wanted to help GOP senators in their own elections.

“He recognized the impact of the presidential candidate on down-ballot races, and said he looked forward to being helpful where he could,” Cornyn said.

Cornyn also suggested that Trump was open to the fact that some Republicans might have to run away from him to win their states.

Republicans are defending 24 seats in 2016, many of them in states won by President Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections.

“He also understands that in some places people may choose to run independently of him,” Cornyn said.

After the meeting, Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntJohnson, Thune signal GOP's rising confidence Senate Minority Whip Thune, close McConnell ally, to run for reelection The end of orphanages starts with family strengthening programs MORE (R), who is running against a highly touted Democratic candidate this fall, released a statement that said he had “reminded” Trump of the need to adapt his tone.

“Sen. Blunt joined the Senate Republican leadership for today’s meeting with Donald Trump and reminded him that tone and language matter in our efforts to defeat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonA year into his presidency, Biden is polling at an all-time low The Memo: 2024 chatter reveals Democratic nervousness Second gentleman Emhoff acts as public link to White House MORE in November,” Blunt’s office said in a statement.

“Sen. Blunt urged Donald Trump to unite Americans in this effort in a way that reminds all of us of our common goals,” the statement added. 

Overall, however, the public displays by Trump and GOP senators were about sending the signal that they are all on the same page.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamKyrsten Sinema's courage, Washington hypocrisy and the politics of rage Hillicon Valley: Amazon's Alabama union fight — take two McConnell will run for another term as leader despite Trump's attacks MORE (R-S.C.), perhaps the toughest GOP critic of Trump in the Senate, even had a phone discussion with the real estate mogul about foreign policy. Graham did not endorse Trump or even move toward saying he would vote for him, but he did say Trump had asked good questions on the call.

Polls show a large majority of Hispanic voters have an unfavorable view of Trump, and Republicans worry that could cost their nominee in the fall.

On this topic, Cornyn said he offered to help.

“I was fortunate enough to win the Hispanic vote in 2014. I said I would be glad to show with you my experience and observations,” he said.

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchMeet Washington's most ineffective senator: Joe Manchin Lobbying world Congress, stop holding 'Dreamers' hostage MORE (R-Utah), the chamber’s president pro tempore — the most senior member of the majority party — told reporters after meeting with Trump, “I totally endorse him.”

The lawmakers also discussed ObamaCare, regulatory reform and religious freedom at the meeting, top topics of Republicans running for reelection.

Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoMcConnell will run for another term as leader despite Trump's attacks Senate Minority Whip Thune, close McConnell ally, to run for reelection Biden's court picks face fierce GOP opposition MORE (Wyo.), the only doctor in the GOP leadership, raised the impact of ObamaCare on insurance premiums.

Insurance companies have begun to submit requests to the Obama administration to hike premiums, a potentially explosive issue in the upcoming election.

Trump responded without missing a beat that he was closely following the issue and predicted the administration would attempt to postpone those increases until after the election.   

Trump met with 11 Senate Republicans, including every member of the elected leadership: McConnell, Cornyn, Barrasso, Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSinema scuttles hopes for filibuster reform How a nice-guy South Dakota senator fell into a Trump storm Democrats: Don't reject GOP offer to fix electoral count law MORE (S.D.), the Senate Republican Conference chairman, Blunt, the conference vice chairman, and Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerUS budget deficit narrows sharply US lawmakers weigh new COVID-19 stimulus funding for businesses Citizenship before partisanship: Is Manchin the ideal candidate for 2024? MORE (Miss.), the NRSC chairman.

Other attendees included Hatch, Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPress: For Trump endorsement: The more sordid, the better Those predicting Facebook's demise are blowing smoke If bitcoin is 'digital gold,' it should be taxed like gold MORE (R-Ala.), the first senator to have endorsed Trump, and Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanJD Vance raises more than million in second fundraising quarter for Ohio Senate bid Cleveland Plain Dealer urges Portman to reconsider retirement Johnson, Thune signal GOP's rising confidence MORE (R-Ohio), Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Biden may get reprieve with gas price drop EPA proposes lowering past blending requirements for gasoline, rejecting waivers Overnight Defense & National Security — A new plan to treat Marines 'like human beings' MORE (R-Neb.) and Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoLobbying world Republicans threaten floor takeover if Democrats weaken filibuster  Like it or not, all roads forward for Democrats go through Joe Manchin MORE (R-W.Va.), who serve as counsels to McConnell.