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Story highlights

Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell won't say if Donald Trump is qualified for the White House

McConnell praised recent Trump moves like delivering prepared speeches

Washington CNN —  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wouldn’t answer questions Sunday about whether Donald Trump is qualified for the presidency, saying he’ll “leave that to the American people to decide.”

The Kentucky Republican was pressed on ABC’s “This Week” about Trump’s lagging poll numbers – and concerns that a series of controversies, which have included attacking a judge’s ethnicity and firing his campaign manager, have left growing numbers of voters believing Trump is unqualified for the job.

“I think there’s no question that he’s made a number of mistakes over the last few weeks. I think they’re beginning to right the ship. It’s a long time until November. And the burden, obviously, will be on him to convince people that he can handle this job,” McConnell said.

He praised Trump for firing campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and for increasingly using a teleprompter to deliver prepared speeches, rather than off-the-cuff remarks.

“I think a good step in the right direction was the changes he made in the campaign,” McConnell said. “He’s beginning to use a prepared script more often, which I think is absolutely appropriate for any candidate, whether you’re a long-time politician like Hillary Clinton or whether you’re new to the game like Donald Trump.”

When ABC host George Stephanopoulous pressed McConnell again on whether Trump is qualified for the presidency, the Senate leader wouldn’t answer directly.

“Look, I’ll leave that to the American people to decide,” McConnell said. “You know, he won the Republican (nomination) fair and square. He got more votes than anybody else against a whole lot of well-qualified candidates. And so our primary voters have made their decision as to who they want to be the nominee.”

Among Trump’s biggest challenges is his massive fundraising deficit – with only $1.3 million in cash-on-hand at the close of the last reporting period, less than many Senate candidates, let alone a presidential nominee.

Asked if Trump can win without raising much more money, McConnell said: “No, but I hope he won’t have that kind of money deficit come fall.”

“There’s a lot of work to be done to turn the campaign in a different direction. And one of those obvious flaws at the moment is cash-on-hand. He needs to catch up and catch up fast,” he said.

He didn’t call on Trump to spend his own money, but said he needs “way more” to compete against Clinton.

“He needs to be able to compete financially. Where the money comes from, whether it comes out of his own pocket or from others, it doesn’t really make all that much difference,” McConnell said. “But he’s going to have to have way more than he has now in order to run the kind of campaign he needs to win.”