John Thune launches bid to succeed McConnell as Republican leader

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Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) on Monday said he is running to succeed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as Republican leader, further crystallizing the field vying for the job. 

Thune made the news official to a pair of South Dakota media outlets, saying that he would like to lead a “reset” of how business is done in the Senate. The No. 2 Senate Republican has been discussing the possibility of running to become leader with colleagues since McConnell made his decision to step aside as leader in November public on Wednesday. 

“Well, I hope to be [leader], and I’m going to do everything I can to convince my colleagues,” Thune told Sioux Falls, S.D.-based KELO-TV . “They’re the voters. They’re the ones who ultimately make the decision. But that as we look at a new generation of consistent, principled, conservative leadership in the United States Senate that empowers our Senate Republicans, that puts a check and balanced against the Schumer, what has been a very liberal Schumer-Biden agenda, I’m prepared to lead that effort.”

Thune also told Dakota News Now that he hopes to be a “difference-maker” moving forward as Republicans look to end their four-year stint in the minority of the upper chamber. He also said that he had his eye on the leadership post when he ran for reelection in 2022. 

“I think we’re ready for a new generation of consistent, principled, conservative leadership for Republicans in the United States Senate that empowers our individual members, gets back to dong things under regular order, which has gone by the wayside under the leadership of Chuck Schumer as he’s been the majority leader,” he said. “I think this is a real opportunity. Any transition is a chance for a reset. In my view, this is a chance for a reset and I’d like to be a part of it.”

Thune’s announcement comes days after Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) jumped into the race. The contest for the post is not likely to be held until after the general election in November.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) has also been mentioned as part of the “Three Johns,” but there is a chance he could run for Republican whip, the job Thune currently occupies, instead. Thune will be unable to serve in the post after the end of this year, while Cornyn finished his six-year tenure in the spot in 2018. 

Thune recently endorsed former President Trump’s presidential campaign, a move that came weeks after Cornyn did so in late January.

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