House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy dodged questions about presidential candidates during a sit-down with reporters Monday, but he did offer his thoughts on what the results of the Iowa caucuses will mean: Not much.
"It means it's not over yet," the California Republican said when asked what it will mean if Donald Trump or Ted Cruz wins the Iowa caucuses Monday night. "I think New Hampshire and the others probably matter more for who the Republican nominee is than Iowa." The field will likely narrow after Iowa and become more competitive as other states weigh in, McCarthy added. He declined to speculate about whether Trump or Cruz, if either were to emerge as the eventual GOP nominee, would cause House Republicans to lose seats.
"I trust the American people," McCarthy said. "I think they'll get it right. We'll see as the campaign goes."
There were only two instances during the half-hour discussion when McCarthy mentioned candidates by name.
The first was in response to a question about whether Trump is a conservative; McCarthy said that yes, based on Trump's actions in the business world and his identifying as a Republican, he would consider him a conservative.
Later McCarthy pointed out that Democratic presidential candidate Bernard Sanders took his honeymoon in the Soviet Union.
On the GOP presidential field, McCarthy said candidates will emerge stronger after campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, where the small populations force the candidates to engage more with voters. Still, he noted there's there's a long way to go before a nominee is named.
“This is a very difficult political climate year, and no one can predetermine who will come out," McCarthy said. "No one can predetermine whether someone helps or someone hurts. I think the best thing to do is run on ideas. That’s what we’re going to do in the House."
The House has outlined a five-point agenda for 2016 that will focus on addressing national security, restoring economic growth, rethinking healthcare, overhauling poverty programs and restoring the constitution. McCarthy said House leaders this week will be announcing more about the committee-led task forces that will be crafting that specific ideas that will populate that agenda.
The hope, leaders have said, is that the eventual GOP presidential nominee will join House Republicans and support that agenda.
"I think at the end of the day whoever the nominee is, they're going to want to be a part of the House agenda," McCarthy said, adding that it's not about pride of ownership. "It doesn’t matter who got the credit as long as we solve the problem."
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