House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Monday suggested that the Republican presidential race is now down to Donald TrumpDonald TrumpRobert Gates says 'extreme polarization' is the greatest threat to US democracy Cassidy says he won't vote for Trump if he runs in 2024 Schiff says holding Bannon in criminal contempt 'a way of getting people's attention' MORE and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRepublicans would need a promotion to be 'paper tigers' Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' MORE, leaving out Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Memo: Conservatives change their tune on big government The CDC's Title 42 order fuels racism and undermines public health Ocasio-Cortez goes indoor skydiving for her birthday MORE.
"I see it more as Trump-Rubio," McCarthy said during an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" as the hosts discussed pundits who ruled out candidates like John Kasich.
"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.