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Sen. Barrasso of Wyoming will run for second spot in the GOP leadership, narrowing the race to replace McConnell

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senator from Wyoming. Johannes Barrasso announced Tuesday that he will run for second place in the Senate Republican Conference, behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell steps down from the top position at the end of the year, leaving the race for the leader after two of his colleagues announced they would join.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Sen. John Thune of South Dakota have announced they will campaign to replace McConnell, who said last week he will leave his leadership post but remain in the Senate after the November elections. There has long been speculation that Barrasso could also run, making the event a race between “the three Johns.”

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

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

The Wyoming senator’s announcement narrows the race between Cornyn and Thune, both of whom are popular with their Republican colleagues and have been loyal deputies to McConnell. Thune replaced Cornyn as McConnell’s number two in the leadership five years ago after the Texas Republican was removed from office.

The race will be held after the November elections. Unlike in the House of Representatives, where the entire body votes for the president, party leaders in the Senate are chosen behind closed doors by secret ballot.

There could also be other candidates, possibly from the right flank of the party that has criticized McConnell. Florida Sen. Rick Scott challenged McConnell in the last leadership election in 2022 at the urging of former President Donald Trump, who is now the frontrunner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. McConnell easily defeated Scott, who had the support of 10 of his GOP colleagues.

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

“Great to see President Trump tonight,” Scott wrote. “We will continue to work together to achieve big wins and restore Washington in 2024.”

While McConnell still enjoys the support of a majority of his caucus, he has been feuding with Trump for years, especially since Trump’s supporters attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021. But his political team has been in talks with Trump’s campaign about a possible approval, according to a person familiar with the situation who insisted on anonymity to discuss it.

Thune and Cornyn also spoke with the former president, but they ultimately endorsed him when it became clear that he is the Republican Party’s likely candidate for president this year.

“I’m going to have to be able to work with the president, and I think he has a very good chance of being the next president,” Thune told local news channel Dakota News Now as he announced his run for leader on Monday.

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