What’s in a name? The Jones Trio vies for McConnell’s place

When Mitch McConnell steps down as GOP leader in the Senate, which won’t happen anytime soon, John will definitely replace him.

Now the question for Republicans in the Senate is: which John?

Senate minority whip John Thune’s decision to run for re-election prompts a tangled shuffle among the Republican trinity named John to replace McConnell. There is Tune from South Dakota, current deputy McConnell, and former whip John Cornin from Texas, two favorites to replace the GOP leader. Then there is John Barrasso, the No. 3 Senate GOP leader who Republicans believe is likely to be the first to take on the whip as Cornin and Thune vie for McConnell’s seat.

“They’re all called John, don’t they?” said Senator Kevin Kramer (RN.D.). “Wow.”

McConnell confirmed on Tuesday that he will strive to remain party leader after the midterm elections this fall, which is not surprising given his goal of surpassing the deceased. Senator Mike Mansfield’s Record for Leadership Longevity in a year. Thune’s push for a fourth term, however, has left the Senate GOP buzzing again over who can take the reins after McConnell, as the political trajectory could change overnight in the Senate.


Thun suffered for almost a year due to the fact that he ran again, a choice complicated by former President Donald Trump’s attacks on him for rejecting Trump’s attempts to challenge Joe Biden’s victory. Nevertheless, Trump’s attacks have stopped, and in assessing his future, Thune said that the opportunity to one day become the leader of the Republicans “will certainly give additional weight to stay in place.”

“Hopefully we’ll get most of it back, and at some point – no one knows exactly when this might happen in the future – there will probably be some opportunities. And I never rule out anything, ”Thune said in an interview on Tuesday.

As a whip, Thune has the clearest path to work in the eyes of some Republicans until he is deadline in 2025. The 61-year-old man once thought of running for president, but after passing on national ambitions.

But 69-year-old Cornin has an impressive track record: he chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee twice, was a whip for six years, and is still McConnell’s confidante at the leader’s advisory table. Where Thune can be low-key, Cornin brings in a more pugnacious style that makes some other Republicans see him as McConnell’s natural successor.


Thune refused to call himself the favorite, despite his comfortable position in the leadership: “I would hate to say that. And I’m Scandinavian, so the glass is always half empty. ” He played down any conflict with Kornin, whom he called his friend.

Both Cornin and Barrasso said they congratulated Thun this week on his decision to run again, and the Wyoming resident said he was “ecstatic” and refuses to discuss a future lead race. Kornin said Thune is “a very important part of our conference and has a lot to offer,” while emphasizing that re-election is a separate issue and not a question of who will replace McConnell.

“This is what I would like to pursue,” Kornin said Tuesday of the GOP first in the Senate. “This is a unique race because you know who the voter is and is not influenced by outside influences. It’s actually more a matter of relationships and trust. “

That there was the last change of leadership on the side of the Democrats almost instantly when the late Senator Harry Reid (Nevada) announced his retirement and immediately backed Senator Chuck Schumer to succeed him. At the time, Schumer was not a whip, but his political work on behalf of his party, as well as his relationship with Reed, helped him become the leader of the Democrats.

There is no indication that McConnell will support Reed-style Cornin or Thun, although he has publicly encouraged Thun to run again. That said, even though McConnell’s term didn’t expire until 2026, Republicans know things can always change – and change quickly.

Thune “got ready for [move up] with the responsibilities he has taken on as a whip, and he is willing to do so by staying in touch with virtually all of us at the conference, ”said Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). “Sep. Kornin’s too. The great thing for us is that you have a couple of really great personalities who can come up if McConnell decides to leave. “

Senator Susan Collins, RR from Maine, said the GOP was “lucky to have three John’s” to choose from. And while she said Cornin and Barrasso would do “a very good job,” she is one of the few GOP senators willing to contribute to the shadow race for leadership.

“John Tune presents a great look for our party. He has been involved in many different issues. He has served on various committees. He understands the variety of personalities he has to deal with, ”Collins said. “As the second most important person in the leadership, for me he is the logical successor.”

Kornin’s power base stems from his whip and party committee chairman in 2010 and 2012, as well as his continued prowess in raising funds for the party and a comfortable re-election win in 2020 after Democrats tried to turn Texas into a state. battlefields. Thune has amassed internal support through personal meals, massive money transfers to the party committee and its role as the current party whip.

Both senators said their most important elections now take place in November this year, when they have a real chance to regain their majority. But, as one Senate Republican put it, the potential competition between them presents the conference with a “really difficult” choice.

And time can be everything: on Tuna, the same six-year time limits apply as on the whip that removed Kornin from his place. Barrasso spent several years using his messaging operation to ingratiate himself with younger Republicans by hosting lengthy press conferences and helping ease his path to becoming the next whip – the same perch that helped Kornin and Thune position themselves to replace McConnell.

Should Trump run for president again, the sheen of the GOP leadership in the Senate could dim a little. But Trump soon fired Thune even after the Senator announced his re-election. Instead, the former president harassed Senator Mike Rounds (RS.D.) this week for saying the 2020 election was justly won, which some Republicans said was good for Thune on Tuesday.

“John is a careful man. He is a conscientious person. As far as I can tell, he’s not impulsive except on the basketball court, ”Kramer said of his fellow Dakotan. “John is probably pretty well aware of the likelihood of his success.”

However, whether McConnell’s favorite heir is there is no one to say. Thune and Cornin are not asking for anyone’s support, and both say they will support McConnell as long as the Kentucky is in power. Some Senators believe McConnell will remain the leader for the rest of his Senate career, despite Trump’s relentless attacks on him and calls for new leadership.

“I don’t think Mitch McConnell will leave his leadership position before deciding in the future not to run for re-election,” Collins said. She calculated that the election campaign “will not take place earlier than in five years.”

However, the unofficial battle of the Johns is very real. And, as Kornin put it, “I always try to be prepared.”



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