What’s in a name? The trio of Johns are fighting to succeed McConnell

“They’re all named John, right?” said Senator Kevin Cramer (RN.D.). “Wow.”

McConnell confirmed on Tuesday that he will seek to remain party leader after the fall mid-term, no surprise given his goal of overcoming the late Late. Mike Mansfield’s record for longevity in leadership a year from now. However, Thunes’ pursuit of a fourth term has left the Senate GOP recently buzzing about who can take the reins after McConnell, as political trajectories may change in an instant in the Senate.

Thune tortured for nearly a year over running again, a choice complicated by former President Donald Trump’s attack on him to reject Trump’s efforts to challenge Joe Biden’s victory. Still, Trump’s attacks ceased, and when he measured his future, Thune said the possibility of one day becoming a Republican leader “put extra emphasis on the side of staying close, for sure.”

“Hopefully we get the majority back, and at some point – no one knows exactly when it may be in the future – there will probably be some options. And I’ll never rule anything out,” Thune said in a Tuesday interview.

As a whip, Thune has the clearest path to the job in the eyes of some Republicans until he is limited in time from his job in 2025. The 61-year-old has once considered running for president but has committed to the Senate after passing on national ambitions .

But Cornyn, 69, brings his own formidable resume: He headed the National Republican Senatorial Committee for two cycles, served as a whip for six years and is still a McConnell confidante at the leader’s table of advisers. Where Thune may be low-key, Cornyn brings a more combative style that makes some other Republicans see him as a natural successor to McConnell.

Thune declined to describe himself as a favorite despite his comfortable place in management: “I would not say that. And I am Scandinavian, so the glass is always half empty. ” He downplayed any conflict with Cornyn, who he said is his friend.

Both Cornyn and Barrasso said they congratulated Thune this week for his decision to run again, with the Wyomingite saying he is “happy” and refusing to tackle a future leadership race. Cornyn said Thune is “a very important part of our conference and has a lot to offer,” while emphasizing that a re-election is a separate issue than who succeeds McConnell.

“That’s something I want to pursue,” Cornyn said Tuesday about the Senate GOP’s top spot. “It’s a unique kind of race because you know who the voters are, and it’s not really influenced by outside influences. It’s really more a matter of relationships and trust.”

The last change of leadership on the Democratic side came at an almost instantaneous moment when the late Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) Announced his retirement and immediately approved Senator Chuck Schumer to succeed him. Schumer was not the whip at the time, but his political work on behalf of his party, as well as his relationship with Reid, helped elevate him to democratic leadership.

There is no sign that McConnell would give a Reid-style boost to either Cornyn or Thune, even though he publicly urged Thune to line up again. Yet, even with McConnell’s term in office only ending in 2026, Republicans know that things can always change – and change quickly.

Thune ”has added [move up] with the responsibility he has taken on as a whip and he has prepared himself to do so in relation to almost all of us in the conference, ”said Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). “Sen. Cornyn has, too. The great thing about us is that you have a few really unusual individuals who can move up if McConnell decides to step out.”

Late. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said the GOP is “lucky to have the three Johns” to choose from. And while she said Cornyn and Barrasso would do a “very good job,” she is one of the few GOP senators willing to weigh in on the shadow leadership race.

“John Thune presents a good picture for our party. He has been involved in many different topics. He has sat on various committees. “He understands the many different personalities that he needs to deal with,” Collins said. “As the second highest-ranking person in management, he is for me the logical successor.”

Cornyn’s power base dates back to his time as whip and party committee chairman in 2010 and 2012, as well as his continued fundraising skills for the party and practical re-election victory in 2020, after Democrats tried to make Texas a battlefield state. Thune has built up internal support through personal dinners, massive financial transfers to the party committee and his role as the current party whip.

Both senators said their most important election right now is in November, when they have a real chance of taking back the majority. But as one Republican from the Senate put it, the potential competition between the two creates a “really difficult” choice for the conference.

And timing could be anything: Thune is subject to the same six-year period limits as the whip that rotated Cornyn out of the spot. Barrasso has spent several years using his messaging operation to pamper himself with younger Republicans, host long press conferences and help ease his way to becoming the next whip – the same perch that has helped Cornyn and Thune position themselves to succeed McConnell.

If Trump resumes the presidential election, the glory of being the Senate GOP leader might be a bit dull. But in the immediate term, Trump has fired Thune, even after the senator announced his re-election. Instead, the former president this week went after Senator Mike Rounds (RS.D.) to say that the 2020 election was reasonably won, which some Republicans said Tuesday was useful for Thune.

“John is a careful man. He’s a conscious person. At least he’s not impulsive as I can see, except on a basketball court,” Cramer said of his colleague Dakotan. “John probably has a pretty good sense of his probability. for success. “

But if there’s a favorite McConnell heir, no one says. Thune and Cornyn are not asking for anyone’s support, and both say they will support McConnell as long as the Kentuckian is in office. Some senators believe McConnell is set to remain a leader until the end of his Senate career, despite Trump’s relentless attacks on him and calls for new leadership.

“I do not see Mitch McConnell resigning his leadership position before a future decision not to run for re-election,” Collins said. She estimated that a leadership campaign “would not take place until in five years.”

Nevertheless, the unofficial battle over John is very real. And as Cornyn put it, “I always try to be prepared.”

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