Thune Eyeballed as Successor for McConnell

( – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is the longest-serving Senate party leader in US history. That era is coming to an end after he announced that he’ll be stepping down later this year. Now the GOP is looking for a replacement — and a front runner is already emerging.

On February 28, McConnell announced that he won’t be running for re-election and will be leaving the Senate when his term expires; he’ll also be stepping down as Senate Minority Leader after November’s elections. He’s led the GOP’s Senate contingent since being elected as minority leader in 2006.

In 2018 he became the longest-serving Republican Senate leader and is now the longest-serving leader of either party, as well as the longest-serving Kentucky senator in US history. However, at 82 years old and with worries about his health following two incidents of “freezing” mid-speech last summer, he’s decided to finally retire.

It didn’t take long for a likely replacement to emerge. Within two hours of McConnell announcing his retirement, Republican senators were already talking up the prospects of Senator John Thune (R-SD), who was McConnell’s deputy when he was the Majority Whip from 2003 to 2007. Several other GOP senators are likely to run for McConnell’s position — John Barrasso (R-WY), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rick Scott (R-FL) are also strong candidates — but for a variety of reasons Thune looks to have a significant head start.

The last few years of McConnell’s tenure have been marred by his on-off feud with former president Donald Trump, but Thune doesn’t have that baggage. With Trump almost certain to win the GOP nomination, a Senate Republican leader who gets on well with him is pretty much essential.

Thune is also solidly conservative and has a strong public image. He’s a popular guest on talk shows and looks good on TV, something McConnell — whose nicknames include “Darth Vader” and “The Grim Reaper” — wasn’t famous for. Senate watchers expect Thune to declare his candidacy soon.

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