Wyoming Sen. Barrasso Will Run for No. 2 Spot in GOP Leadership, Narrowing Race to Replace McConnell

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: Mar 06, 2024

Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, talks after a policy luncheon on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)


WASHINGTON (AP) — Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso announced Tuesday that he will run for the No. 2 spot in the Senate Republican conference after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell steps down from the top post at the end of the year, bowing out of the race for leader after two of his colleagues announced they would run.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn and South Dakota Sen. John Thune have announced they will campaign to replace McConnell, who said last week that he will step down from his leadership post but remain in the Senate after the November elections. It has long been speculated that Barrasso could run as well, making the contest a race among “the three Johns.”

But Barrasso said in a brief statement that he has had time to reflect on how he might best serve, and, “after a lot of thought, I will ask my colleagues for their support and help to work for them as the Assistant Republican Leader.”

Barrasso is No. 3 in leadership as the chairman of the Senate Republican conference. His wife, Bobbi Barrasso, died in January after a two-year struggle with brain cancer.

The Wyoming senator’s announcement narrows the race between Cornyn and Thune, who are both popular with their GOP colleagues and have been loyal deputies to McConnell. Thune replaced Cornyn as McConnell’s No. 2 in leadership five years ago after the Texas Republican was term-limited out of the post.

The race will be held after the November election. Unlike in the House, where the entire body votes for speaker, Senate party leaders are elected behind closed doors by secret ballot.

There could be other candidates as well, possibly from the right flank of the party that has been critical of McConnell. Florida Sen. Rick Scott challenged McConnell in the last leadership election in 2022 at the urging of former President Donald Trump, who’s now the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination. McConnell easily defeated Scott, who had the backing of 10 of his GOP colleagues.

On Monday, Scott posted a photo on X of himself and Trump.

“Great to see President Trump tonight,” Scott wrote. “We’re going to continue working together to win big in 2024 and fix Washington.”

While McConnell still enjoys support from a majority of his caucus, he has been at odds with Trump for years, particularly since the Jan. 6, 2021, attack of Trump’s supporters at the Capitol. But his political team has been in talks with Trump’s campaign about a possible endorsement, according to a person familiar with the situation who insisted on anonymity to discuss it.

Thune and Cornyn have also sparred with the former president, but they eventually endorsed him as it became clear that he is the likely GOP nominee for president this year.

“I’m going to need to be able to work with the president, and I think he’s got a very good shot at being the next president,” Thune told local news outlet Dakota News Now when he announced his run for leader on Monday.

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