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Story highlights

McConnell says he believes Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania could be in play this fall

But many lawmakers have been squeamish, to say the least

Washington CNN —  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cited new polling Tuesday showing Donald Trump running neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton in key swing states as he continues trying to unite his caucus divided by the grueling GOP primary.

“It looks to me like at the beginning of the race, Florida and Pennsylvania and Ohio look pretty competitive,” McConnell said. “It’s a long time until November, but the early indications are that our nominee is likely to be very competitive.”

McConnell spoke to reporters just after the first meeting of Senate Republicans since Trump became the presumptive nominee. And unlike House Speaker Paul Ryan – who said he is not yet ready to support Trump – McConnell has been actively trying to get his members in line with the real estate magnate.

But many lawmakers have been squeamish, to say the least. Sen. Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican, continued deflecting questions about Trump on Tuesday by saying he simply would not talk about presidential politics. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican facing a tough re-election battle, said she was late for meeting before darting off.

In an attempt to heal some deep wounds sustained during the primaries, Trump is heading to the Hill to meet in-person with House and Senate leaders Thursday.

“We’re looking forward to a meeting at his request later this week,” McConnell said. “I think most of our members believe that he’s won the nomination the old-fashioned way. He got more votes than anybody else. And we respect the voices of the Republican primary voters across the country. And we’ll sit down and talk about the way forward.”

McConnell declined to comment on Ryan’s decision not to endorse Trump.

The tone from many Republican senators has been one of mere acceptance. Sen. John McCain, one of four previous Republican nominees who is skipping the Republican convention, said he would be happy to listen to Trump’s thoughts but did not offer much more.

“He will say what he wants to say and I will certainly be glad to listen,” McCain said Tuesday.

Sen. Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican, said Tuesday that if Trump wanted to unify the party, he could start by apologizing to McCain for questioning his service in Vietnam.

“There’s still some hard feelings and this isn’t my own. John McCain – who’s the chairman of one of my committees – I think he’s an American hero. And I think somewhere along the line there has to be a way to take a second look at some of the comments Mr. Trump made with regard to Sen. McCain’s service to our country,” Rounds said. “I think that would go a long ways towards bringing some people in.”