On Monday’s “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) weighed in on the rise of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump coming off of his win in the South Carolina Republican primary on Saturday.
McCarthy said to co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski the presidential election feels a lot like the 2003 California special election for Arnold Schwarzenegger and he said Trump would be someone he could work with.
Partial transcript as follows:
SCARBOROUGH: Kevin, what do you think of the state of the Republican race right now? Come on, tell it to us straight. Is the panic setting in yet?
MCCARTHY: No. Not panic. But this feels like — I’m from California.
MCCARTHY: This feels like the special election when Arnold Schwarzenegger…
MCCARTHY: He went on the Tonight Show. I was in the state assembly at the time, I was the Republican leader. There’s a lot of similarities, even down the fact that they replaced Trump with Arnold on “The Apprentice.”
SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, yeah.
MCCARTHY: So. It’s a movement where people have not felt it. They think they didn’t see it coming, and it just has overtaken. People are just fed up with everything that has gone on, so they want to see a fundamental change. And that’s what we’re seeing in the polls.
SCARBOROUGH: Nicolle, does that sound familiar?
WALLACE: Well — yeah. And keeping with this idea of sort of cleaning house, I mean, that was Arnold’s message, he campaigned with brooms on the — on the…
MCCARTHY: We’re not going to take it anymore, the twisted sister, I think Trump uses that.
WALLACE: Yeah. I called Trump political chemo, that he might be really strong medicine for some people, and there are still a lot of Republicans…
SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, no. That was sort of a kind of harsh analogy.
WALLACE: But he’s the only thing (ph) with any chance of sort of killing the cancer that’s this corrupted establishment.
WALLACE: And do you — I mean, I’m sure in California people — that resonates in California, where people are disgusted with Washington.
MCCARTHY: It kind of resonates across the country right now, everywhere you go. It’s the number one thing they talk about.
BRZEZINSKI: So what do they — what do Republicans, behind closed doors, talking about? What’s the real concern about this election? You say there’s no panic. Nothing to be afraid of?
MCCARTHY: Well, no — no, there’s panicking groups, I mean.
BRZEZINSKI: OK, well, so, describe that panic.
MCCARTHY: But I think people have moved — I mean, at the beginning, I think it’s the same panic they’re probably feeling in the Democratic, but they didn’t think Bernie would be where he’s at. They didn’t think where it’s — where it’s to now.
I mean, I personally believe it’s down to a two-person race. So, the strategy — I thought Cruz probably had the best ability of his mapping out, but not winning in South Carolina, that’s very difficult now for him. The bigger advantage is to Trump. He’s got to momentum. I think there’s more than a 50 percent chance he’s the nominee.
And I think that’s what’s setting in for a lot of people. Could they get their heads around Trump being the nominee?
SCARBOROUGH: Can you work — if Trump were the nominee, well, certainly everybody around the table this morning feels like you, there’s a better than 50 percent chance that he wins this thing. You think he can work with Donald Trump?
MCCARTHY: Yeah. Oh, yeah, I think I can work with Donald Trump.
SCARBOROUGH: Do you think you can work with Donald Trump better than Ted Cruz? Be honest.
MCCARTHY: Be honest. And by the way — by the way, that’s an unfair question, because I never dealt with him.
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