"My hope is that he is beginning to pivot," Senate Majority Leader McConnell said
McConnell isn't the only Senate Republican critic who has noticed Trump's effort at changing
Sen. Mitch McConnell, who has frequently criticized Donald Trump’s handling of his presidential campaign, noted a small measure of improvement by the presumptive Republican nominee when he told an interviewer Tuesday that Trump is “getting closer” to becoming a credible candidate.
McConnell, who is the influential Senate majority leader, was speaking about Trump’s efforts in recent days to make his campaign more disciplined and focused, something the candidate and his aides have promised he would do as he turns from the raucous primary fight to the general election race against presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“So my hope is that he is beginning to pivot and become what I would call a more serious and credible candidate for the highest office in the land,” McConnell told Geoff Bennett of NY1/Time Warner Cable News.
When Bennett pressed McConnell to clarify if Trump still does not meet that threshold of credibility, the Kentucky Republican replied: “He’s getting closer. Getting closer.”
McConnell’s more upbeat assessment, while not glowing, was an improvement over what he said Sunday when he refused to answer whether he thought Trump was qualified to be president.
“Trump clearly needs to change, in my opinion, to win the general election,” McConnell told Bennett. “What I’ve said to him both publicly and privately: ‘You’re a great entertainer. You turn on audiences. You’re good before a crowd. You have a lot of Twitter followers. That worked fine for you in the primaries. But now that you are in the general, people are looking for a level of seriousness that is typically conveyed by having a prepared text and teleprompter and staying on message.”
McConnell isn’t the only Senate Republican critic who has noticed Trump’s effort at changing.
When asked if Trump has taken steps in the right direction in terms of his overall tone and approach, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, said, “Yeah, but it’s only been a couple of days.”
“He’s shown these signs before and snapped right back to the old Donald. So it’s too early to tell,” said Flake, who has not endorsed Trump and regularly blasts the controversial stances the businessman has taken over the course of his campaign.
On Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, Flake indicated he was pleased by Trump’s recent attempts to soften it.
“I’m glad to see he’s walking (it) back,” Flake said. “Just keep walking.”
Flake also said Trump’s recent criticism of free trade, a pillar of Republican orthodoxy, is “troubling.”
“Very bothersome and very damaging, frankly, for the long term,” Flake said.
Other Senate Republicans who are critics of Trump’s declined to comment, saying they are too busy, focused on their own re-election races or too occupied with Senate business to pay attention to their party’s presumptive presidential nominee.