WASHINGTON -- For Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Donald Trump's insults aimed at minorities and others the intemperate business tycoon considers enemies amount to a message problem.
McConnell recently said that he voted against archconservative Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election because Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act.
Goldwater's racism cost the GOP the support of African-American voters for generations, and McConnell said that it could happen again with Trump and Latino voters.
But asked Tuesday how he squared that with still supporting Trump, McConnell merely repeated his warning.
"I was worried that we would do to the Latino vote what was done to the African-American vote by defining our party in such a way that we could not reach out to what has become the nation’s largest minority group," McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill. "So I am worried about that. I said that last week and I say it again today."
Still, pressed on whether he was worried about what Trump could do to McConnell and the GOP's broader agenda, the majority leader declined to disavow Trump. Instead, he offered Trump advice.
"There are a lot of issues that we ought to be talking about, our nominee ought to be talking about," McConnell said, pointing to the economy and Obamacare.
"My advice to our nominee would be to start talking about the issues that the American people care about, and to start doing it now," McConnell said. "In addition to that, it’s time to quit attacking various people that you competed with, or various minority groups in the country, and get on message."
If Trump does that, McConnell thinks the nation will overlook Trump's ongoing offenses against Americans who are not like him.
"This election is eminently winnable. The American people at their core do not want four more years like the last eight," McConnell said. "So I hope that’s what he will do. We’re all anxious to hear what he may say next."
McConnell again declined to characterize Trump's remarks about U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel as racist. Trump has repeatedly said that Curiel, who is presiding over a Trump University case, is biased against him because of the judge's Mexican heritage.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) scolded GOP leaders for their response to Trump's comments, and appeared to reference McConnell's remarks moments earlier.
"So, let me get this straight: the Republican leader said that racism was the lesser of two evils," Reid said.