He didn't phrase it quite like that, but he did tell MSNBC's (notably Trump-friendly) Morning Joe crew that the bombastic billionaire has at least a 50 percent chance of becoming the Republican Party's presidential nominee. As you watch this clip, bear in mind that McCarthy is the House Majority Leader, who has spent much of his time in Congressional leadership tabulating and corralling votes. And don't forget that this was the man who was widely expected to become Speaker of the House after Boehner stepped down last fall -- before he abruptly dropped out of the race, a development for which none other than...Donald Trump claimed credit. And here we are today:
McCarthy also swung by Fox News, where he told anchor Bill Hemmer that he'd absolutely support Trump as the nominee, even as he knows that many GOP caucus members will either distance themselves from Trump, or openly run against him. He compared the current mood of the country to what he witnessed in the early-2000's California revolt, which triggered in a circus-like gubernatorial recall election and resulted in a celebrity winning the statewide race. Over at Hot Air, Allahpundit games out the delegate math and pegs Trump's chances at closer to 80 percent-plus. Gulp:
I’d describe Trump’s chances not so much as better than 50 percent than as better than 80 percent. Right now there’s no reason to think Cruz won’t be effectively washed up at the end of Super Tuesday. Trump has now beaten him in a southern state and he’s done so handily, by outpolling Cruz among his base of evangelicals. He leads in polling of most southern Super Tuesday states as I write this. If Rubio had flamed out on Saturday night, you’d have an argument for why Cruz is poised for a comeback — with Rubio DOA, some of his conservative voters will start migrating towards Cruz in the name of stopping Trump on March 1st. Instead the opposite happened, with Rubio edging Cruz out for second and now looking poised to compete with him for second place next Tuesday as well. Cruz will find the courage to go on if he wins Texas, but if that’s his only win next week then his “dominate the south” strategy will have been a major failure. He’ll be the de facto third-place guy in a three-man field with the race headed towards more moderate states, which means he’ll have no realistic path. I wouldn’t even call him a sure thing in Texas. In the last poll taken there, a week before Iowa, he led Trump by just five points. Where are those numbers now, with Trump coming off two big wins and another one likely tomorrow night in Nevada?
Even if Marco Rubio eventually gets the one-on-one contest he wants by mid-March -- which assumes a lot of moving parts fall into place, in relatively short order -- would he beat Trump head-to-head? A recent poll showed both Rubio and Cruz defeating Trump by double-digits in hypothetical two-man races, which offers some measure of encouragement to the GOP's understandably large 'Anybody But Trump' contingent. But that dynamic is likely to remain hypothetical for at least a number of weeks, with the allure (mirage?) of a path to victory infusing both Senators' campaigns with a rationale to keep plodding away. Meanwhile, Trump will very likely build momentum and a hefty delegate lead over that period of time (take a peek at the nominating calendar), meaning that if Rubio or possibly Cruz eventually ends up in a long-desired mano a mano competition, he'll be playing serious catch-up. The best case scenario may be a brokered convention by that point.
The Donald also has a trump card tucked up his luxurious, Chinese-made sleeve that could render all of this moot: Defeating Cruz in Texas and Rubio in Florida, outcomes that are plausible and currently likely, respectively. In addition to the delegate windfall Trump would seize, the optics would be extremely powerful. And the race would effectively be over. Oh, there's another twist in all of this. As Trump has correctly mentioned, various candidates exiting the race does not by any means guarantee that all of their supporters would swing against Trump. At least some percentage of each "also ran" campaign's backers will end up in Trump's column, meaning that the consolidation process may not be quite as clean as the chattering class expects. In fact, it'll be downright dirty and acrimonious as Rubio and Cruz throw sharp elbows (and preposterous smears) to box each other out. Advantage: Trump. Much can change over the course of several weeks, but time is running short for a viable anti-Trump candidate to emerge. The longer that takes, the better it is for Trump. And with two rival campaigns locked in a bitter fight with one another -- each deeply invested their own "here's why it needs to be us" story -- Kevin McCarthy's public guesswork looks increasingly likely. No wonder the establishment money men are considering reconciling themselves to a Trump nomination. Case in point, I'll leave you with Rubio's SuperPAC trying to fight a two-front battle: