Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that while he “vigorously” disagreed with Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump on certain policy measures, he would still support him in an effort to defeat Hillary Clinton.
In a sit-down with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric, McConnell said he had “no trouble supporting” Trump in November. But he also noted that he encouraged Trump to paint himself as more “studious” and to rely less on off-the-cuff speeches. He spoke with Yahoo while promoting his new memoir, “The Long Game.”
“I think he needs to now portray a more studious, thoughtful approach to the biggest job in the country,” McConnell said. “He’s at a crossroads, it seems to me. Does he conclude that since the way he’s been operating has gotten him this far, that’s the way to operate until the finish? Or does he need to pivot? My advice to him is to pivot.”
McConnell said he met with Trump before his speech last week to the National Rifle Association convention in Louisville, Ky., where he encouraged Trump to use a script, despite the business mogul’s pleas that such an approach would be too “boring.”
“He said, ‘I hate to use a script, it’s so boring,’” McConnell recalled. “I said, ‘Put me down in favor of boring, put me down in favor of using a script more often.’ … In order to get from where you are to the White House, you need more boring.”
During his Tuesday interview, McConnell reaffirmed his support for Trump going into the general election. But he stood by his opposition to some of Trump’s provocative policy proposals, including deporting people who have come into the United States illegally.
“I think we’re not going to round up 11 million people and send them home,” the Kentucky senator said.
McConnell argued that Trump’s proposals could pose a threat to the Republican Party’s standing with immigrant voters. The Senate majority leader said the demographics of the country have changed and that his party must adapt to that change.
“America is changing … the Republican Party clearly doesn’t need to write off either Asian or Latino Americans, and that is not a good place to be for long-term competitiveness,” he said, adding later that, for Republicans, “in the presidential race, not being able to make a strong argument to Asian or Latino voters is a huge mistake, and there’s time to correct that.”
He also reiterated his opposition to Trump’s controversial plan to bar all Muslims from entering the United States, calling it “completely unworkable.”
“Our single best source of information about potential radical Islamic terrorists in the United States are other Muslims, many of whom — most of whom — are committed, patriotic Americans,” McConnell said.
He nevertheless preached the importance of coming together behind Trump. Conservative pundit Bill Kristol said last weekend that there will be a strong third-party candidate for those who oppose both Trump and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
“I think [a third-party run] just makes it more likely Hillary Clinton gets elected president. I would not want it said of me that I participated in the election of Hillary Clinton,” McConnell said, when asked about Kristol’s plans. “I hope it is not successful.”
McConnell argued that voters should view the November election as a binary choice between continuing or rejecting Obama’s policies.
“I don’t agree with everything he says or does,” he said. “But this is the choice the American people have: ‘Are you satisfied with the last four years? Or do you want to go in a different direction?’”
He also talked at length about his often contentious relationship with President Obama. McConnell said that while they have had a cordial relationship, he sometimes found Obama’s personality “grating.”
“I don’t dislike him, I just think he has a tendency to lecture,” McConnell said.
McConnell told a story in which he watched an inning of a baseball game while on the phone with Obama, choosing to ignore what he called one of the president’s lectures. He also chastised Obama for not doing enough to compromise with Congressional Republicans.
“My biggest problem with Barack Obama … is he didn’t want to come to the center,” McConnell said. “He wanted to pursue his leftish agenda, and when he lost his ability to pursue that through Congress after the 2010 elections, he pursued it through regulators.”