McConnell urges Thune to run for reelection amid retirement talk

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Minority Leader Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) arrive for a press conference after the weekly policy luncheon on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.
Greg Nash

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is urging Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a close ally and his No. 2, to run for reelection next year as Thune weighs retiring.

Asked on Wednesday about the possibility that Thune retires, McConnell told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, “I certainly hope he won’t.”

“John Thune is an outstanding senator. He’s done a great job as whip. … It would be a real setback from the country and our party if he retires,” McConnell added.

Thune is one of two GOP senators, along with Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.), who haven’t yet announced if they are going to run for reelection in 2022. While Johnson has suggested that his previous opposition to running for a third term was shifting, Thune has been tight-lipped about which way he is leaning, but said that he’ll make a decision by the end of the year.

“All in due time,” Thune told reporters late last week when asked if he would run.

Other members of GOP leadership had predicted earlier this year that Thune would run for reelection. But Thune set off alarm bells when he indicated to a South Dakota reporter that his wife wants him to retire.

GOP senators have been privately encouraging Thune to run for reelection.

Thune drew former President Trump’s ire because the senator opposed a long-shot bid backed by some conservatives and Trump’s allies to challenge the outcome of the Electoral College earlier this year.

Thune, in remarks that didn’t go unnoticed by Trump, predicted the effort would go down like a “shot dog.”

But South Dakota is a deeply red state and Thune appears likely to win reelection if he runs. Though Trump called on South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem to run against Thune in the primary, the Republican governor rejected the idea and is running for reelection to the state’s top office instead.

GOP Sens. Kevin Cramer (N.D.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), who are Trump allies, told The New York Times that they’ve encouraged Thune to run for reelection and not to worry about a Trump-backed primary challenger.

“He likes winners and John Thune is a winner,” Cramer told the Times.

Republicans are feeling increasingly bullish about their chances of winning back the Senate majority in 2022. Republicans would need a net pickup of just one seat in order to win a narrow 51-49 majority.

McConnell said Wednesday that he thinks Republicans have a “great cycle” with a “good chance of getting the majority back.”

“The atmosphere is terrible [for Democrats],” he added. “I have a hard time seeing how they get out of the hole by next November.”

Tags Donald Trump John Thune Kevin Cramer Kristi Noem Lindsey Graham Mitch McConnell Ron Johnson

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