Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan both said Tuesday they aren’t worried about the Republican presidential primary and suggested they believe an establishment candidate will ultimately prevail.
Appearing back-to-back at a Politico Playbook breakfast, McConnell and Ryan, who rarely comment on presidential politics, dodged questions about specific candidates such as Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. But they offered some insight into how they think the 2016 elections will unfold and downplayed suggestions that a highly contested GOP primary battle will hurt the party.
“I don’t have any worries about it,” McConnell said.
Ryan, too, said he’s not worried about the outcome of the primary fight.
“I think this is going to sort itself out fine,” Ryan said.
Ryan, who ran on the 2012 GOP ticket as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential nominee, said he was confident Republicans would elect a candidate with broad appeal.
“The Republican primary voter — who I’ve become acquainted with quite well over the years — is a smart, savvy voter that wants to win,” Ryan said. “And I think they’re going to elect a nominee that can take us all the way.”
McConnell acknowledged that a GOP nominee who can carry purple states in the general election would be beneficial to Republicans’ hopes for holding on to control of the Senate.
“The key to a Republican majority lies in purple states,” McConnell said.
He declined to comment when asked how a Cruz candidacy might effect Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s race in New Hampshire or whether a Trump candidacy would hurt Sen. Rob Portman’s re-election bid in Ohio, two critical campaigns in swing states.
“All of you can draw your own conclusions about which candidates are most likely to carry purple states,” McConnell said.
Asked about a report that he and and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told a group of party leaders that a deadlocked convention is something they should prepare for as Trump continues to lead the polls, McConnell refused to share any details.
“The meeting is called off the record for a reason,” McConnell said. “I don’t have any interest in quoting myself or others.”
However, he largely dismissed the idea of brokered convention, saying, “It hasn’t happened in a very long time, and I think it’s very highly unlikely to happen.”
Ryan wouldn’t even speculate about the possibility when asked the same question.
“I don’t think about stuff like that and I don’t worry about it,” he said.
Instead, Ryan said he’s worried about ensuring that whoever becomes the nominee has a detailed agenda on which to run and win.
“I want House Republicans helping our nominee before our nominee arrives,” he said, noting that could be as late as June or July.
“The lesson I learned in 2012 is you can’t wait until mid-summer to start putting together your national campaign strategy,” Ryan added. “You have to start earlier than that.”
Ryan plans to have House Republicans offer detailed policy proposals that embody GOP principles and stay away from “identity politics” that divide people into subgroups and prey on people’s emotions.
“Some on the other side of the aisle would like to see if they can bait us into a 1964 election where we lose big,” Ryan said. “I think we can, should, and must have a 1980 election where we win big, and where we win with a mandate.”
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