Thune won't challenge Cornyn for GOP whip

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) announced Thursday that he will run again for the chairmanship of the Senate Republican Conference, leaving Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) a clear path to become Senate GOP whip.

“America continues to face enormous challenges and the consequences have never been greater,” Thune said in a statement. “Our country is at a crossroads and communicating our positive Republican vision to grow the economy, create jobs, and restore our nation’s fiscal health couldn’t be more important.

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“Senate Republicans have solutions and we will work hard to aggressively take our message directly to the American people,” he added.

The development was expected by Senate Republican aides, who said Thune’s camp showed no signs of a bid for whip.

Unless a challenger emerges before Wednesday, Cornyn will have an uncontested shot to become the second-ranking Senate Republican. Some Senate observers thought Cornyn might be subject to a contest if Republicans failed to capture the Senate majority, despite widespread predictions at the start of the 2012 election cycle they would pick up three seats or more.

Before recessing for the election, Republican senators said failure to regain the majority would not be held against Cornyn, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Cornyn has chaired the political campaign committee for two consecutive cycles and has crisscrossed the country innumerable times recruiting Republican candidates and raising money for them.

Without a race for the whip’s job, the Senate Republican leadership hierarchy will stay the same. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will keep his job and Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Senate GOP Conference Vice Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) are expected to win easy reelection to their posts.

The only potential race is for the chairmanship of the NRSC. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) has quietly lobbied colleagues for the job over the past six month.

A source close to Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) says he has received several calls in recent weeks urging him to challenge Moran. Portman has yet to decide whether he will, according to the source. 

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