House Speaker Kevin McCarthy predicted former President Trump will win the 2024 Republican presidential primary race on Sunday, bashing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as "not at the same level."
McCarthy made the comments during an appearance on Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures" with host Maria Bartiromo. McCarthy has previously remained neutral in the GOP primary, declining to endorse Trump in July.
"I think he will be the nominee," McCarthy said about Trump after Bartiromo asked if he thought the former president would be the party's choice for 2024. "The thing is, President Trump is stronger today than he was in 2016 or 2020, and there's a reason why. They saw the policies of what he was able to do with America – putting America first, making our economy stronger."
"We didn't have inflation. We didn't have these battles around the world. We didn't look weak around the world," he added.
"Well it looks like Ron DeSantis is now trying to work with your colleagues who are pushing for a shutdown," Bartiromo said.
"I don't think that would work anywhere. A shutdown would only give strength to the Democrats," McCarthy said. "It would give the power to Biden. It wouldn't pay our troops. It wouldn't pay our border agents."
"I actually want to achieve something, and this is where President Trump is so smart, that he was successful in this." McCarthy continued. "President Trump is beating Biden right now in the polls. He is stronger than he has ever been in this process, and, look, I served with Ron DeSantis – he's not at the same level as President Trump by any shape or form. He would not have gotten elected without President Trump's endorsement."
While McCarthy's comments do not amount to an official endorsement of Trump, they are a clear message of friendship to the former president. McCarthy had previously offended the Trump campaign with another television appearance in June.
In that instance, he told CNBC that he was not sure whether Trump was the best candidate to defeat Biden. He soon apologized to Trump and recanted, sending out an email fundraiser declaring Trump to be "the STRONGEST opponent to Biden."
McCarthy's compliment to Trump comes as he faces down ardent Trump allies in the House Freedom Caucus over the ongoing budget deal.
It is unclear whether the HFC will budge, however, as several members held up McCarthy's own speakership despite Trump's endorsement.