By Jesse Byrnes
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Monday suggested that the Republican presidential race is now down to Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump gives million to campaign, won't commit to 0 million pledge CNN poll: 54 percent say things are going well Military expert slams Trump’s offer to ‘teach’ him MORE and Marco RubioMarco RubioRubio won’t say if Trump would keep US safe Clinton fails to contain damage from email leaks Five takeaways from New Hampshire Senate debate MORE, leaving out Ted CruzTed CruzDemocrats pounce on Cruz's Supreme Court comments Brent Budowsky: An epic battle for the future of Congress Cruz: Precedent exists for keeping Supreme Court short-staffed 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.