Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Wednesday warned former President Trump against focusing his 2024 reelection bid on “revenge,” suggesting Trump will lose without an optimistic message.
“I do not criticize him on television because I don’t think it’s right, and I know it drives him crazy,” McCarthy told New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin at the DealBook Summit when discussing the former president.
McCarthy said he and Trump have “an interesting relationship,” telling Sorkin he did not expect the former president to support him when he was ousted as Speaker in October. He said the pair “have very clear personal conversations on where we go” and that Trump is “his own person.”
Despite some differing viewpoints, McCarthy maintained that “America would be stronger” if Trump were the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nominee, predicting that “if Biden is the Democrat nominee, Trump will win” and “Republicans will have a very big night.”
Sorkin pushed back on McCarthy’s confidence in Trump, noting the California Republican criticized Trump following the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot. McCarthy had said days after the riot that Trump bore “responsibility” for the attack.
“I didn’t say he would be a great president,” McCarthy told Sorkin on Wednesday. “I said he’d be a better president than what we’re having. I said the country would be in a better place.”
Later in the interview, McCarthy said he would advise Trump to pick Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley as his running mate.
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The former South Carolina governor has ticked up in recent polls, and is battling Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to be the top Trump alternative in the Republican primary.
McCarthy suggested Haley could help Trump unify the GOP base and get independents to support his bid to win back the White House.
“But this is a bigger question for Trump: If his campaign is about renew, rebuild and restore, he’ll win. If it’s about revenge, he’ll lose,” McCarthy told Sorkin. “The only person that’s going to determine that is – not his campaign ad – is him.”