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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to what to look for in a leadership race to succeed McConnell

Republican senators will vote next fall to pick the new Senate Minority Leader after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced his retirement.

It is almost too early to truly understand and divine where the votes might for someone to succeed retiring Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The reason? The universe and conditions under which Republican senators will vote next fall to pick their new leader haven’t formed yet. Yes, take a look at the three Johns: Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), former Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). Even someone like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) could be in play. A source tells FOX is interested in the race. 


But beyond that, we don’t know much.

Here’s why:

We have to first know who wins the presidential election. And if 2024 is anything like 2020, we might not definitively know until week or more after the election. A delay in figuring out the winner could delay the internal secret leadership election which Senate Republicans will take in mid to late November. But the winner of the presidential election will dictate who the GOP wants – especially if former President Trump prevails and has much to say about it.

Ironically, FOX is told that the antipathy between the former President and McConnell was not a major factor in the decision-making of the Kentucky Republican to step down.


Another factor: who has control of the Senate – and by how many seats. Keep in mind we didn’t know until January 2021 as to which party would control the Senate in the last Congress.

This is why other figures may emerge. Especially dark horses. 

As I have written before, leadership elections in Congress are not "partisan politics" They are "particle politics." The person who is propelled into leadership is not always the obvious choice: Think former House Speakers John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Or even current House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.).


FOX is told that some Senate Republicans are tired of what one senior Senate GOP leadership source termed a "weekly MAGA show" by Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), JD Vance (R-Ohio) and others at the weekly Senate Republican Conference meetings. So if former President Trump loses and if the GOP doesn’t have control of the Senate, that could dictate who Republicans pick.

However, if Republicans prevail with a substantial majority, look at Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) as a possibility. He leads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the GOP’s campaign arm. Daines has made many of the right moves so far in GOP contests. If Republicans win the Senate by a good margin, some members (especially the new ones), might be willing to give Daines a look – if he’s interested. 

The same factor could undercut Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.). It’s not clear if Scott is interested. He ran unsuccessfully against McConnell in the fall of 2022. Scott led the GOP’s campaign efforts in 2022 – and Republicans failed to win the Senate. That could be an albatross for Scott and potentially inhibit him from making another run at leadership.

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