Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W. Va., will be one of the few women lawmakers meeting with presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump Thursday, and she knows what she’s going to tell him.
“I’m just going to emphasize that what you say and how you say it is really important,” Capito said Wednesday. “I’m concerned about the tone and how it’s going to influence his campaign.”
As one of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s four counsels, Capito is among the handful of Republican senators meeting with Trump on Thursday. Trump will also meet with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Ryan’s leadership team.
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Republican lawmakers have been slow to endorse Trump, whose brash style and controversial statements had even his first congressional backer, Rep. Chris Collins of New York, warning not to expect a wave of endorsements from Capitol Hill.
Trump’s candidacy has some vulnerable Republican senators walking a fine line between supporting their party’s nominee, but distancing themselves from his statements that could alienate key voting blocs, including women.
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“When I talk about tone that’s what I’m talking about,” Capito said, referencing whether Trump could alienate women voters. “I don’t think it’s exclusive to how he talks about women, but he has momentum. He has an ear to the voting public, to the voters. … So he can take that frustration, take that message, and reformulate his tone when he’s talking about it.”
But the freshman senator is not concerned about how Trump could react to her criticism, noting, “That’s not something I’ve actually thought about.”
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Trump’s first Senate backer , Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., told reporters Trump will likely be open to hearing such critiques on Thursday.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt he will listen to that. He listens to that now. He said his family tells him sometimes he needs to be softer,” Sessions said. “But he’s a strong leader and I think people appreciate that too. So I think it’ll be helpful, I think it would be great if [Capito] could share that thought.”
Trump will hear a similar message from Senate GOP Conference Vice Chairman Roy Blunt, who is considered a vulnerable incumbent this cycle. Blunt’s spokesman said in an email that the Missouri Republican “will use the opportunity to remind Donald Trump that what we say and how we say it matter in making it clear that our common goal is defeating Hillary Clinton and guiding America in a new direction.”
It’s not clear if Trump will heed the senators advice, but Capito said it’s important to discuss, given their goal of maintaining and growing the GOP majorities in the House and Senate.