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Tags: mitch mcconnell | senate | donald trump | john thune | john cornyn | john barrasso | leader
CORRESPONDENT

Senate Whip Thune Early Favorite to Succeed McConnell

John Gizzi By Wednesday, 28 February 2024 07:39 PM EST Current | Bio | Archive

Less than two hours after the bombshell announcement by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that he would step down as Senate Republican leader in November, one name was the focus of most Senate-watchers as a likely successor: John Thune, South Dakota senator and McConnell's deputy as GOP Whip.

Thune, who is expected to declare for the leadership of Senate Republicans soon, is well-liked by his 49 colleagues in the Senate GOP Conference. With a lifetime average rating of 83.52% by the American Conservative Union, the South Dakotan is also telegenic and a popular fixture on Sunday talk shows.

Most importantly, Senate sources told Newsmax, Thune doesn't have a "Trump problem" in the mold of McConnell's. The Kentuckian and the former president could not stand one another, and clashed on issues ranging from NATO to the disputed 2020 election.

Trump's nickname for McConnell was "the old crow" (which McConnell joked was actually a compliment, as Old Crow was "[Kentucky politician] Henry Clay's favorite bourbon").

Although the South Dakotan did describe Trump's behavior on Jan. 6, 2021, as "inexcusable," he has since patched up any differences the two had and, in fact, delivered a ringing endorsement of Trump following his victory in the South Carolina primary on Saturday.

In what pundits are dubbing "the race of the three Johns," Thune is likely to face competition for leader from Sens. John Barrasso (Wyoming) and John Cornyn (Texas). Barrasso, 71, a physician, chairs the Senate Republican Conference. Cornyn, 72, is a past chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a prolific fund-raiser for colleagues.

Also mentioned is Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, 71, who challenged McConnell for leader last year and lost by 37-to-10. Whether there is lingering resentment among colleagues toward Scott for taking on the leader is unclear at this time.

One former Senate staffer who requested anonymity said: "With Sen. McConnell stepping down as Republican leader at the end of 2024, I expect John Thune to be elected leader over Sens. John Cornyn or John Barrasso. I predict Republicans will want to choose someone a little younger [Thune is 63] and more telegenic, and on those points Thune would be the clear front-runner."

There was also some mention of newer faces, notably Tom Cotton of Arkansas or J.D. Vance of Ohio. Both are full-fledged members of "Trumpworld" and considered well on the right of the modern Republican Party. But historically, the Senate Republican leader has been someone "on the inside" of the Conference (which will elect the new leader after the November elections) and, in that group, Thune checks the proverbial boxes.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


John-Gizzi
After the announcement by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that he would step down as Senate Republican leader in November, one name was the focus of most Senate-watchers as a likely successor: John Thune, South Dakota senator and McConnell's deputy as GOP Whip.
mitch mcconnell, senate, donald trump, john thune, john cornyn, john barrasso, leader
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2024-39-28
Wednesday, 28 February 2024 07:39 PM
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