U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told Craighead County Republicans there is an enthusiasm gap between the parties, and historical headwinds are blowing against the GOP in this year’s elections. McCarthy spoke Saturday (May 19) at the Lincoln Day dinner held on the Arkansas State University campus.
McCarthy came to Jonesboro at the behest of U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark.
The National Democratic Party will target U.S. Rep. French Hill’s district, and will pour money into the race, he said. Non-presidential election years typically result in majority party losing on average 32 House seats, and the Democrats only need to pick up 23 to flip the governmental body, he said. McCarthy believes Democrat voters are more motivated than the GOP voters, and that trend must change if the party wants to remain in control.
During his speech he took a moment to take a shot a former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“It’s an honor to be here. … I never would have thought this is the place the Clintons come from,” he said.
If the Republicans keep the House, McCarthy, 53, could become the next Speaker of the House, and would be third in line to be president.
McCarthy praised the work President Donald Trump. Trump moved the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and it was the right move, he said. The recent negotiations with North Korea are a positive step, he added. Trump contacts McCarthy often, he said. He said it’s not uncommon for the president to call him at 11 p.m., and then when McCarthy wakes up at 5 a.m. He’s already missed three or four calls from Trump, he said.
“He (Trump) never sleeps,”McCarthy said.
Agriculture is the dominant economic sector in his district in California, McCarthy said. About 80% of nation’s carrots are grown in his district, and the issues there are similar to those in Arkansas’ First Congressional district.
McCarthy’s path to the Congress was interesting, he said. He is from a working class family, and was the first Republican in his family. After high school, he bought and “flipped” cars to pay for his college tuition. One night he was cashing a check from his endeavors at a grocery store.
He cashed the check, and bought a lottery ticket. He won $5,000 and took the money and invested it in stocks. He later took the money and opened a deli. McCarthy said he tried unsuccessfully to get a congressional internship. He was rejected.
“I now sit in the seat I couldn’t get an internship for,” he said.