Jab at Trump? McConnell 'optimistic' about contested conference

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Source:   —  April 19, 2016, at 1:15 AM

The comments, made over the weekend to WHAS-TV in Louisville, represent a crack of sorts for the KY Republican who's sought in public to stay neutral on the race.

Jab at Trump? McConnell 'optimistic' about contested conference

Senate Majority Boss Mitch McConnell, in an implicit jab at Republican primary front-runner Donald Trump, said he's “increasingly optimistic" that voting at the Republican National Conference in July will go to a second ballot.

The comments, made over the weekend to WHAS-TV in Louisville, represent a crack of sorts for the KY Republican who's sought in public to stay neutral on the race. While McConnell didn't openly criticize any candidate, the senator seemed to be rooting for a contested convention – something Trump is battling to avoid, as he tries to lock up the nomination outright before July.

"I'm increasingly optimistic that there actually may be a second ballot," McConnell told WHAS-TV.

"I wish somebody who can win in Nov and the whole process is about trying to beat Hillary Clinton in November," he said. "And I think our delegates, if they finish up actually having the latitude to create a decision, which would occur on the second and third ballot, are going to be interested in who can win."

A candidate would've to amass the support of 1.237 delegates in order to clinch the nomination. While it'south still possible for Trump to reach that no ahead of the GOP conference in Cleveland, it'll be tough. If Trump cannot reach that threshold, voting would proceed to a second ballot at the convention, with a majority of delegates free to vote for whomever they choose.

And TX Sen. Ted Cruz has been working tirelessly to obtain allies elected as delegates so they could be in place maintain him on subsequent rounds of voting. OH Gov. John Kasich, too, while trailing badly in the delegate race, is holding out hope for a contested convention.

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It’s a process Trump has decried as “rigged.” But McConnell’s comments, combined with Cruz’s recent success in the behind-the-scenes delegate-selection battle, only lift the pressure on Trump to attempt and avert that process entirely -- by securing the nomination outright.

He’ll have his following chance on Tuesday when NY state holds its primary. Both Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton are fighting for a rebound in the delegate-rich contest after recent setbacks.

Yet for both primary front-runners, simply winning isn't necessarily enough.

For Clinton, she’s looking for a large triumph to not only disrupt rival Bernie Sanders’ winning streak but blunt his claims of “momentum” in the Democratic race.

For Trump, he needs to score over fifty % of the statewide vote to have a shot at taking residence all ninety-five of the state’s delegates. Trump has been campaigning heavily in the state toward that goal, and most recent polls shows him with just over fifty % support in the state, holding a enormous double-digit lead over the rest of the field.

In his interview, McConnell said that if voting at the conference does go to a second round, it'd then be up to Trump, Cruz, Kasich "or anyone else," to create the electability argument.

McConnell said that he anticipates he himself will be a delegate, and "on the second ballot I'll be free to do whatever I want."

"There are some candidates suggesting it'south somehow tricky to simply chase the rules of the convention," McConnell said, in an obvious reference to Trump'south complaints about the process. "We're going to chase the rules of the convention."

In response to his interviewer'south questions, McConnell ruled himself out of contention, although there has been tiny if any speak about such a scenario. He also said he believes House Speaker Paul Ryan'south disavowals of interest in the nomination, something that remains a topic of speculation despite Ryan'south attempts to close it down.

"It really will be up to the delegates," McConnell said. "I imply this notion that there'south some grouping of people in WA that can handpick somebody and deliver it's not true. If there were such a grouping I'd probably be a portion of it, but there isn't a group."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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