Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he will step down as the Senate’s top Republican in November, sparking debate over who could replace the longest-serving Senate leader in U.S. history.
There are ‘three Johns’ behind the scenes who could take on the featured role, but there are others who could also throw their name into the ring.
In a tearful speech Wednesday, McConnell, 82, said it was time for the “next generation of leadership” and that he had full confidence in his conference to choose his replacement.
Now all eyes are on his two current and one former lieutenants: Senators John Thune, John Barrasso and John Cornyn, who are considered the most likely to take the lead role in Senate GOP leadership.
A source familiar told DailyMail.com that Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., also plans to run for a Republican leadership position.
Additionally, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, one of two women in the Senate Republican leadership, could be a potential underdog candidate in the race, while Sen. Joni Ernst, another member of the Republican leadership, ruled herself out Wednesday.
Senator McConnell speaking on the Senate floor where he announced he will step down as Senate Republican leader in November.
JUAN NO. 1: Senator John Thune of South Dakota is currently Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s No. 2 in Senate leadership.
John No. 1 is Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, who currently serves as McConnell’s No. 2 in Senate leadership.
At 63 years old, he is the youngest of the three main contenders.
Thune has served in the Senate since 2005 after his shocking election victory against then-Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle.
He narrowly won against the leading Democrat 50.6 to 49.4 percent and highlighted the state’s increasingly right-leaning tilt.
It was one of the most watched races of the 2004 cycle.
Thune came in second to McConnell in 2019, as one of the other Johns, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, was term-limited due to Republican leadership rules.
Like McConnell, he feuded with former President Donald Trump over his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
But earlier this month he endorsed Trump for president in the 2024 election.
JUAN NO. 2: Sen. John Cornyn of Texas previously served as McConnell’s top lieutenant, but Republican tenure limits leadership positions, so Thune took over in 2019.
The second John is Senator John Cornyn of Texas, who was previously McConnell’s right-hand man in Senate leadership.
Cornyn, 72, was elected to the Senate in 2002 and served as GOP Senate leader from 2013 to 2019, after a successful career as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Before that, he served as a district judge, on the Texas Supreme Court, and as attorney general of the Lone Star State.
The Republicans’ mandate limits their leadership positions, so Thune took over as Cornyn’s whip in 2019.
Since then, he was the Republicans’ negotiator on a bipartisan gun control bill that passed after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, in Cornyn’s home state of Texas.
Like McConnell and Thune, Cornyn had criticized Trump, saying at one point that “we have to find an alternative Republican candidate” in 2024.
He endorsed Trump for president in January.
JUAN NO. 3: Sen. John Barrasso is the current No. 3 Republican Senate leader and is most likely to rise to the No. 2 spot if Senate Republicans get a new boss.
John No. 3 is Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming and is currently the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, meaning he is the third most powerful Senate Republican.
Barrasso, 71, is an orthopedic surgeon by training, but he also served as a rodeo doctor for a time.
He originally ran for Senate in 1996 as state Sen. Alan Simpson was retiring, but lost the Republican primary to state Sen. Mike Enzi, who won the general election in the deeply red state.
He won his seat after the death of Senator Craig Thomas in 2007, after serving in the Wyoming State Senate.
While Barrasso is more likely to take second place, he has a good relationship with Trump, whom he also endorsed in the presidential race in January.
A family source told DailyMail.com that Senator Cotton will run for Senate leadership. Senator Capito has also been appointed while she serves in the current Republican Senate leadership.
Two other possible contenders are Capito and Cotton.
Capito, 70, of West Virginia, is the current vice chair of the Senate Republican Conference and would be the first woman to hold that position.
Cotton, 46, has served in the Senate since 2015. He currently serves on the Judiciary, Intelligence and Armed Services Committees.