The Senate Majority Leader, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has endorsed the GOP nominee Donald Trump but is concerned that the business mogul could permanently poison the party's brand among Hispanic voters.
On June 2, McConnell expressed worry over Trump’s fiery rhetoric toward Hispanics, a sizable demographic in the country whose support could be essential in winning future presidential elections.
In a sit-down with CNN’s Jake Tapper, McConnell was asked if he believed that Trump could alienate Hispanics and damage the GOP.
“I do,” McConnell answered. “I do.”
Trump began his presidential campaign with a speech describing Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals. His rhetoric has not softened, with some recent comments inflaming the accusations that he is a bigot.
When U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel ruled that documents related to a lawsuit against Trump University were to be unsealed, Trump blasted him during a campaign rally in San Diego, The New York Times reports.
“The judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican...” Trump said of Curiel, who was actually born in Indiana.
On June 1, Ruth Guerra, the head of Hispanic media relations for the Republican National Committee (RNC) announced that she was resigning. While she gave no official reason for her departure, she reportedly told colleagues that she could not, in good conscience, work to help elect Trump.
McConnell pointed to Trump’s attacks against Republican Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico. During a rally in Martinez’s own state, the business mogul lambasted the governor, who also serves as chairman of the Republican Governors’ Association and is the first Latina governor in the U.S.
McConnell told Tapper that the verbal attacks that Trump has “routinely engaged in -- for example, going after Susana Martinez -- I think [that] was a big mistake.”
The Kentucky senator cited the 1964 presidential election as an example of how a Republican nominee could damage the party’s brand among a key voting demographic. Despite Republicans’ majority support of that year’s Civil Rights Act, the GOP nominee Barry Goldwater voted against the legislation.
“It did define our party, for at least African-American voters, and it still does today,” McConnell said. “That was a complete shift that occurred that year and we’ve never been able to get them back. So I think it was a defining moment for Republicans with regard to the accomplishments that we had made for African-Americans going back to the Civil War.”
While McConnell has endorsed Trump, he did note that he would not draft legislation to enact the business mogul’s proposed Muslim travel ban.
The Senate Majority Leader has previously stated that while he will support Trump, he does not plan to go along with the GOP nominee’s agenda.
“He’s not going to change the platform of the Republican Party, the views of the Republican Party,” McConnell told CNBC on June 1. “I think we’re much more likely to change him because if he is president, he’s going to have to deal with sort of the right-of-center world, which is where most of us are.”