Donald Trump appears to be taking at least some of the credit for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s decision to drop out of the race for Speaker of the House.
“They're giving me a lot of credit for that because I said you really need someone very, very, tough and very smart,” Trump said on Oct. 8 at a campaign event in Las Vegas, according to CNN. “You know, smart goes with tough. I know tough people that aren't smart. That's the worst. We need smart, we need tough, we need the whole package.”
McCarthy, who had been the presumed successor after Republican Speaker John Boehner announced his resignation in September, abruptly pulled his name from consideration on Oct. 8.
“If we are going to unite and be strong, we need a new face to help do that,” McCarthy told reporters, according to NBC News. “Nothing more than that. I feel good about the decision.”
But Trump’s comments on Oct. 8 seemed to point to doubts he had previously raised about McCarthy’s ability to work with Democrats.
“I would like to see someone that's very tough and that can negotiate with the Democrats, and I don't know that he's that person,” Trump said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Oct. 2.
“We need somebody that's a very, very tough, smart, cunning person," he added. "I don't know that that's him, and obviously this statement hurt him pretty badly in the eyes of some, unfortunately."
The "statement" Trump was referring to was McCarthy’s suggestion that the House Select Committee on Benghazi had brought down support for Hillary Clinton in the polls.
McCarthy walked back the suggestion in an interview with Fox News on Oct. 1 after some House Republicans urged him to clarify what he had said.
“This committee was set up for one sole purpose, to find the truth on behalf of families for four dead Americans,” McCarthy said. “Now, I did not imply in any way that that work is political, of course it is not. Look at the way they have carried themselves out.”
McCarthy said on Oct. 8 that his decision to drop out had only to do with his perceived inability to unite his party and generate the needed 218 votes to name him as speaker.
"I've been talking to a number of members, we've been thinking about this throughout the week, trying to see if we can get there,” McCarthy said, according to NBC News. “I just think it's best to have a new face.”
Boehner, who was set to leave office Oct. 30, has said he will stay on until a successor can be named.