McConnell’s Replacement Race Comes Down To Two Men

A high-stakes contest is shaping up to replace Mitch McConnell, the 82-year-old Republican from Kentucky, who revealed on Wednesday that he intends to resign in November. The likely front-runners are Wyoming’s John Barrasso, Texas’s John Cornyn, and South Dakota’s John Thune.

Because McConnell’s departure creates a power vacuum in the increasingly fractured Senate GOP, the contest also sets up a battle about the future of the Republican Party. McConnell was one of Trump’s most potent counterweights.

South Dakota’s Minority Whip John Thune and Texas’s Sen. John Cornyn have narrowed the field to two candidates in the fight to succeed Mitch McConnell as Republican leader in the Senate.

John Barrasso of Wyoming, the third-ranking Republican senator and chair of the Senate Republican Conference, said on Tuesday that he will not seek to succeed Mitch McConnell but rather compete for the party’s second-highest post, whip.

Although additional contenders from the party’s conservative wing may yet join the race, the early favorites are Mr. Thune and Mr. Cornyn, who have held many leadership posts in the past. Some senators have shown interest in the position, such as Florida’s Rick Scott and Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson. Mr. Scott had a meeting with Trump on Monday.

The fourth-ranking Republican in the Senate, Joni Ernst of Iowa, is still on the fence.

Mr. Barrasso is being challenged for the position of Republican Conference head by Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton.

Republican senators from South Dakota and Oklahoma, Mike Rounds and Markwayne Mullin have backed Mr. Thune, who announced his candidacy on Monday. Mullin, who urged Trump to stay out of the fight because it is a “lose-lose,” claimed to be “not sure” if Trump might scuttle Thune’s possible candidacy.

The very next day after Mr. McConnell announced his intention to retire, Mr. Cornyn entered the race.

Cornyn said of himself that while leading the charge to halt destructive policies to our country and the conservative cause, he has built a track record of listening to colleagues and seeking consensus.