By Jesse Byrnes
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Monday suggested that the Republican presidential race is now down to Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMcConnell: Trump needs to 'catch up fast' on fundraising Rubio: I hope I can trust whoever wins with the nuclear codes O'Malley: Trump is a 'racist' and a 'bigot' MORE and Marco RubioMarco RubioRubio: I hope I can trust whoever wins with the nuclear codes Rubio faces Trump-like challenger in primary Rubio on VP: 'It's too late for that' MORE, leaving out Ted CruzTed CruzO'Malley gives Trump a nickname: 'Chicken Donald' Va. GOP delegate files lawsuit over bound convention votes Our most toxic export: American politick MORE.
"Cruz's whole strategy of winning — he wasn't planning on Trump — and when you look going through the evangelical vote and others, he just lost that," McCarthy added.
Trump picked up nearly a third of the vote in South Carolina on Saturday, while Rubio narrowly edged out Cruz in the first Southern state to hold voting.
McCarthy praised Rubio's comeback in South Carolina after the Florida senator finished a disappointing fifth in New Hampshire, but he acknowledged that it is difficult to name a state that Rubio could win given the dominance of Trump in the race.
McCarthy likened Trump's popularity among voters to actor Arnold Schwarzenegger's rise to governor of California "even down to the fact that they replaced Trump with Arnold on 'The Apprentice.'"
The House GOP leader expressed optimism about working with Trump, acknowledging the businessman's status as the Republican presidential front-runner.
McCarthy pointed to Trump's momentum in the GOP race after winning New Hampshire and South Carolina, saying, "I think there's more [than a] 50-percent chance he's the nominee."
McCarthy insisted that he could work with any of the GOP candidates leading the field.
"Oh yeah, I think I could work with Donald Trump," McCarthy said.
Asked about Cruz, McCarthy demurred before maintaining, "I think I could work with anyone who comes out to be the nominee."
"I think John Kasich would be an excellent president," McCarthy added when asked about the Ohio governor, who took second in New Hampshire earlier this month.