SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Orrin Hatch has tried to encourage presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to tone down his confrontational campaign style.
"In our initial conversations, one of my main messages to Mr. Trump was that he needs to focus less on personality and divisive rhetoric and more on policy and ability to govern. While it's still early and there is much more I hope he will do, Trump has started to focus more on policy, which is a first step," Utah's senior senator said Wednesday.
Hatch's comments came ahead of a meeting GOP leaders will hold with Trump on Thursday in Washington, D.C. It's the second time since May the controversial real estate mogul will have sat down with Republican members of Congress.
Trump ignited another firestorm this week during a rally in North Carolina when he praised Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's efficient killing of "terrorists," even though Iraq was listed as a state sponsor of terrorism during Saddam's regime.
Hatch said in hopes of maintaining a constructive dialog, he has talked with Trump on occasion and their staffs regularly communicate.
"I intend to continue to use these opportunities to encourage him to craft policies and rhetoric that will make him a successful candidate and a capable governing partner," the senator said.
Hatch came out of the May meeting saying he would do what he can to help Trump win the presidency, even though many Utahns have serious reservations about voting for him.
Utahns, like many Americans, want a president who can bring about broadly shared prosperity at home and security in a dangerous world, Hatch said. Trump, he said, needs to offer an inclusive and attractive vision of how to reach those goals in order to win in November.
Having Trump at the top of the Republican ticket would also impact races in Utah, particularly shaping the 4th Congressional District battle between Republican Rep. Mia Love and Democratic challenger Doug Owens.
"That's one reason I'm hopeful Trump will make critical adjustments and emerge as a more broadly appealing general election candidate," Hatch said.
The senator said he has talked to Trump about causes he has passionately advocated, including expanding international trade, tax reform, immigration and safeguarding religious liberty. He said he has tried to get Trump and his staff to understand why the right position on those issues is important for his election.
"I'm hopeful he will embrace the right policies and message to appeal to voters in the fall and govern well if he's elected," Hatch said.