HomePoliticsThe Republican Senate race to succeed McConnell is taking shape with Thune...

The Republican Senate race to succeed McConnell is taking shape with Thune in and Barrasso out

WASHINGTON—Sen. Johannes BarrassoR-Wyo., will not run for Senate Republican leader and will instead run for the No. 2 whip position, according to three sources with knowledge of his plans.

That means the race to succeed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is now effectively between the Senate Minority Whip John ThuneRS.D. and senator. Johannes CornynR-Texas, the former whip, although there is still time for other candidates to jump in as voting won’t happen until after the November election.

“We need change. We must stand up and fight aggressively for our Republican priorities,” Barrasso, currently the third-ranking Republican senator, wrote in a letter to colleagues on Tuesday, obtained by NBC News. “If elected to serve as your Whip, I will seek greater openness about our process and transparency about your choices. We must allow consensus within our Conference to take precedence over agreements between a few. In addition, I will continue to urge our leadership team and our conference to align our priorities with the priorities of our constituents.”

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Barrasso noted in his letter that the past year has been “a difficult year for me and my family” with the death of his wife Bobbi.

On Monday, Thune made his long-awaited run official.

When asked by a South Dakota news station if he wants to become leader, Thune said, “Well, I hope to be and I’m going to do everything I can to convince my colleagues that they are the voters, they are the ones who ultimately makes the decision.”

“As we look to a new generation of consistent, principled, conservative leadership in the United States Senate that empowers our Republicans in the Senate, that puts a check and balance on the Schumer – which is a very liberal Schumer-Biden agenda I am prepared to lead that effort,” Thune said.

Thune was also asked about his support for the former President Donald Trumpand how he justifies this after still not acknowledging his loss in 2020, and the current criminal charges he has faced and been found liable for sexual abuse.

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“I don’t agree with him on that. And of course I’ve made that abundantly clear,” Thune said of the former president’s 2020 election lies. “And I’m not going to litigate it again.”

On Trump’s criminal cases, Thune said he will “let the process play out,” but added that the 2024 election is “a very clear choice” between Trump and President Joe Biden.

“To me, this is a very clear choice for the American people about what they want to see in the future in terms of policies that affect their daily lives, whether it’s economic policy, national security, the southern border, energy,” he said . “There are, in my opinion, a lot of things that we need to change to get the country back on track.”

For Thune, who cannot serve another term as Republican leader after this year, anything other than a Republican leader would be a step backwards. But Barrasso would move up the ranks if he becomes whip.

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Cornyn announced his run for leader last week, saying that if elected, he will “improve communications, increase transparency and ensure every member’s expertise and opinions are included.” He previously served as McConnell’s whip before being fired from that position in January 2019.

With Barrasso having left the No. 3 Republican conference chairman position, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said Tuesday he plans to run.

“Some of my colleagues have approached me about the position of conference chair, the third position in leadership. My focus now is on that position,” Cotton told Fox Business. “It’s open because of the terms for John Barrasso, who has done a good job there. That adds to our message to the American people.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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