WASHINGTON – In a Friday speech in Washington, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t mention Donald Trump by name to the same group of conservative activists the Republican presidential candidate was scheduled to address hours later.
McConnell, R-Ky., rebuked Trump this week for divisive comments on a federal judge of Mexican heritage and other minorities, but he continues to support the Republican presidential candidate.
Ticking off the accomplishments of his Republican Senate majority to the Road to Majority Conference, McConnell on Friday morning referred to “the next president,” “the next commander in chief” and “the president we are in the process of selecting,” but never said Trump’s name.
In his new memoir, “The Long Game,” McConnell described how he cast a protest vote against the 1964 Republican nominee, Barry Goldwater, over the then-Arizona senator’s opposition to the Civil Rights Act.
In recent days, McConnell has openly worried that Trump could alienate Hispanic voters from the Republican Party, much as Goldwater’s civil rights stance cost the party African-American votes.
McConnell called on Trump to apologize for his suggestion that a federal judge of Mexican descent could not be impartial in a civil fraud case involving Trump’s now-defunct real estate education school, Trump University.
Trump has said his plan to build a wall at the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration made it impossible for Judge Gonzalo Curiel to render a fair judgment. Curiel was born in Indiana to parents from Mexico.
Trump has since softened his comments, but has not apologized.
McConnell became majority leader in 2014 and was elected to a sixth term in the Senate.
Democrats need to win only five Senate seats to flip the chamber this year, and with several races already competitive, they think having Trump at the top of the Republican ticket gives them a chance.
One vulnerable Republican, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, has already rescinded his endorsement of Trump.
McConnell has not urged Republicans who worry about Trump to vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton.
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