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McConnell Clarifies 'Optimistic' Remark About Second Convention Ballot

McConnell told NBC News that the comment was "inartful."
Image: Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, John Thune, Roger Wicker
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., accompanied by, from left, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, talk to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, following a closed-door policy meeting. President Barack Obama met earlier today with McConnell and with House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., to hash out an agenda for his final year, even as his top legislative priorities appear to be losing steam. J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is clarifying his remark that he is "optimistic" that there will be a second ballot at the Republican National Convention in July.

McConnell told NBC News that the comment, which was widely interpreted to mean that the Kentucky Republican hoped that Donald Trump would fail to clinch the GOP nod, was "inartful."

"What I said, somewhat inartfully, was is that we will have a nominee once we get to 1237 votes," McConnell said, referencing the number required to secure a majority of delegates at the convention. "If that does not happen on the first ballot, there will be another ballot. And I hope that this process, no matter when it ends first, second, third or additional ballot, that we will have a nominee that will be appealing to the American people and can win the election."

McConnell had told a Louisville TV station that he was "increasingly optimistic that there will actually be a second ballot," noting that many delegates are bound to vote for a specific candidate on the first vote but are free to choose the candidate they support on subsequent ballots.

It is unclear at this stage of the campaign whether or not Trump, the GOP frontrunner, will secure 1,237 votes before the convention in Cleveland. But his closest remaining competitor, Ted Cruz, is close to being mathematically eliminated from reaching the required number of delegates before the end of the primaries in June. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is already mathematically unable to assemble a majority of delegates before the primary season ends.

Carrie Dann contributed.