A day after the second presidential debate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had nothing to say about Donald Trump.
“If any of you are here are thinking I’m going to elaborate on the presidential debate, let me disabuse you of that notion,” McConnell told a crowd assembled Monday by the Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce. “If you’re interested in anything else, please stay. If you’re interested in the presidential election, you might as well get up and leave, because I don’t have any observations to make on that.”
McConnell, whose chances of remaining majority leader of the Senate after Nov. 8 diminish with each misstep by the Republican presidential nominee, had plenty of reasons to refuse to comment.
On Friday, the Washington Post released a video of Trump having an explicit conversation in 2005 with Billy Bush, who was then host of “Access Hollywood” host in which Trump said he could kiss any woman and grab them by their genitals because he’s famous.
In the aftermath, Trump issued an apology in which he called his comments “locker room talk,” a phrase that he repeated several times during his debate Sunday with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. During the debate, he sought to deflect attention from the video by talking about women who have accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual assault and saying that Hillary Clinton would go to jail if he were president.
McConnell was among many Republicans who denounced Trump’s comments Friday, saying the presidential candidate should “take full responsibility for the utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, canceled an appearance with Trump Saturday, and Monday, Ryan told Republican lawmakers that he could no longer defend Trump and would focus solely on House races.
At least 51 Republican leaders renounced their support for Trump after the video came to light.
Meanwhile, Republicans are left wondering whether Trump’s comments might torpedo their efforts to maintain majorities in the Senate and House. On Monday, the analysis website FiveThirtyEight gave Democrats a 58.4 percent chance of winning control of the Senate.
In September, McConnell asked Republican donors in Kentucky for prayers to help Republicans maintain their slim majority in the Senate, a task he has said is difficult because Republicans are defending more seats than Democrats.
“It was going to be difficult no matter what happened in the presidential election,” McConnell told the crowd Monday.
McConnell also distanced himself from Trump’s attacks on trade agreements.
“America needs to be a trading nation,” McConnell said. “If you add up all the free-trade agreements to all the countries in the world, we have a trade surplus. We’re selling more to them than they’re selling to us.”
Surrounded by reporters after the event, McConnell stared straight ahead as he marched to his car, remaining silent as he was asked whether he thought Republicans should disavow Trump.