Addressing a rally in Georgetown, Kentucky, McConnell urged the crowd that “we need a new president, Donald Trump, to be the most powerful Republican in America,” according to the Associated Press.
Fearing Trump’s effect on GOP Senate candidates locked in tight races, McConnell has largely remained mum about Trump, while rallying Republicans to preserve their Senate majority.
McConnell, like House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other GOP leaders, has walked a tightrope between condemning their party’s presidential nominee for his litany of offensive remarks and controversies, and continuing to endorse him.
After last month’s release of a 2005 video of Trump bragging about sexual assault, McConnell condemned his remarks, calling them “repugnant, and unacceptable in any circumstance,” and asked Trump to apologize. But he continued to stand by him as the nominee.
Simultaneously, McConnell has desperately tried to avoid questions about the nominee both from reporters and from Trump supporters angry that party leaders are not putting their full weight behind Trump’s campaign. Last month, he even pre-empted the questions, saying at an event that he would not discuss the presidential race.
“If you’re interested in the presidential election, you might as well get up and leave, because I don’t have any observations to make on that,” he said.
In February, McConnell reportedly told Senate colleagues that if Trump were to become the nominee, “we will drop him like a hot rock.” But when Trump won the nomination, he reluctantly endorsed him, despite his fears that Trump would sink vulnerable GOP Senate candidates.
In standing by Trump, McConnell also has the Supreme Court in mind, as he continues to block Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. If Trump is in the White House, McConnell will get more conservative judicial nominees.