Washington (CNN)Key Republican senators seemed eager to help presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump turn the page Wednesday, the day after he tried to quell concerns about his ability to lead the party to victory on Election Day, while others were more reluctant.
Trump's efforts appease some senators, not others
Trump, by issuing a lengthy statement saying his remarks that an Indiana-born judge of Mexican heritage was a "hater" and "a Mexican" were "misconstrued," and reading a tightly scripted primary night speech from teleprompters, clearly sought to address criticisms from within his own party that his rhetoric was harmful to their electoral chances.
Indeed, Sen. Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican in the Senate, said: "I think he's done a good job in the last 24 hours of realizing the impact of those comments. I think it shows real leadership when he takes responsibility and walks those comments back. I think that's a good direction, a new direction frankly and one that I am pleased with."
Two days before, Scott had called Trump's criticism of federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over a case against Trump University, "racially toxic."
"Obviously his comments were in line with his primary language, which is not in our best interest either," Scott had said.
Trump's statement Tuesday represented a cooling of previous criticism he has lobbed at Curiel, but it did not include an apology or an expression of regret. And in an interview with Time published Wednesday, Trump said he used the teleprompters to highlight a "special moment" and said he was "disappointed and surprised" by the rebukes he received from top Republicans.
Still, whatever contrition he showed was enough for some senators.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, who is running for re-election, said he will support "our nominee."
"I don't want to see a third term of the Obama administration which is what the Clinton candidacy would be. But make no mistake there's no place for racism in this country," Burr said. "And I think that he has done what he feels appropriate to try to walk this back that that was not his intent. So let's get past this current thing and let's look forward and see how the Trump campaign is run."
Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the most senior Republican in the chamber, said Trump isn't a racist and argued the media is "overblowing the whole thing."
"I just think you are because he makes a dumb comment like politicians do from time to time and I think you've got to acknowledge that sometimes it's dumb but that doesn't mean it's racist," he said.
When Hatch was reminded that Trump made the comment about the judge multiple times and never apologized, Hatch said: "Well, that's the way he is."
One Republican still taking a wait and see approach is Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who is locked in a rough re-election fight in the blue-leaning state.
"I think it was outrageous I think it was wrong I think it's ridiculous. The idea that a person's ethnicity tells you anything about their ability to be a good judge is absurd," he said. "I'm going to see how this plays out and see if Donald Trump can earn the support of Republicans like me."
Asked whether Trump's comments in the last week have changed his thinking, former rival Ted Cruz repeated that he is still assessing.
"Well, as I said before, I am looking and listening and watching the candidates, I'm doing the same thing millions of voters are doing and time will tell," the Texas senator said.
"I think it's time for Donald Trump to shift from the thought of the moment spontaneously uttered to a more disciplined way of running a campaign for president of the United States," said retiring GOP Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana. "I think that maybe he's gotten the message because the statement he made last night is more in the direction that he needs to go."
And one of Trump's loudest critics on Capitol Hill said "nobody believes" Trump's assertion that his comments were misconstrued.
"The bar is low," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, when told that some GOP senators were encouraged by Trump's latest explanation.
"I think it shows a conscience on his part that he stepped in it. Whether or not this is a major correction or not, I don't know," Graham, a former 2016 rival, said. "His excuse that his statement was misconstrued -- Nobody believes that. But it is some recognition that he needs to be more disciplined."