As Mitch McConnell’s Historic Tenure Nears Its End, Who Will Lead the Senate GOP in 2025?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on Wednesday that this would be his last term as the leader of Senate Republicans after nearly 18 years atop the GOP conference. Who will take his place?


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on Wednesday that this would be his last term as the leader of Senate Republicans after nearly 18 years atop the GOP conference. Who will take his place?

  • Speculation has swirled around the “Three Johns,” a trio of similarly-named senators with leadership experience widely expected to run for leadership once it opened up.
  • Senator John Cornyn of Texas threw his hat in the ring on Thursday, becoming the first but certainly not the last contender to join the race. Cornyn has solid leadership credentials, having served as McConnell’s No. 2 for six years and helmed the Senate GOP campaign committee for two cycles.
  • South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the sitting Senate Minority Whip who serves as McConnell’s top deputy, left the door open to a bid on Wednesday but hasn’t made a formal announcement.
  • Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the current No. 3 in the Senate GOP’s leadership hierarchy, is considered the third leading contender and also the most conservative of the three. 
  • Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who mounted a failed challenge to McConnell in 2022 after an unsuccessful tenure leading the Senate GOP’s campaign wing, may also make another attempt at leading the Senate Republican Conference.
  • McConnell made history in 2021 when he became the longest serving party leader in Senate history, surpassing Montana Sen. Mike Mansfield, who led Senate Democrats from 1961 to 1977.
  • Mitch McConnell took the helm of the Senate Republican Conference in January 2007, weeks after the GOP suffered a historic drubbing in the 2006 midterm elections.
  • McConnell served as Minority Leader from 2007 to 2015, led the Senate as Majority Leader from 2015 to 2021, and resumed his role as Minority Leader after the GOP lost the Senate in the 2021 Georgia runoffs.

reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • “Mr. McConnell suffered a serious fall last year and experienced some episodes where he momentarily froze in front of the media,” the New York Times reported. “He has also faced rising resistance within his ranks for his push to provide continued military assistance to Ukraine as well as his close-to-the-vest leadership style. And his toxic relationship with Mr. Trump, whom he blamed for the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol — after orchestrating his acquittal in an impeachment trial on charges of inciting an insurrection — put him profoundly at odds with the rest of his party.”
  • “While the three Johns are widely considered to be the most likely McConnell successors,” the Washington Post observed, “Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Steve Daines (Mont.) and Rick Scott (Fla.) also have been floated as potential candidates.” The Post’s Mariana Alfaro continued, “Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa), the chair of the Senate Republican Policy Committee and the No. 4 Republican in the conference, signaled on Wednesday that she is not interested in the job.”
  • “The shakeup within the Senate GOP ranks comes as the conference has grown increasingly divided between its Trump and establishment wings,” CNN noted. “And how Thune, Cornyn and Barrasso placate the various factions within the conference — and make promises to elevate their rank-and-file in the decision-making process — could help determine whether they have the votes to be leader.


  • “The Senate has felt the same partisan pressures as the House in recent years, but has kept business largely on track, crafting a series of bipartisan deals and holding on to institutional rules that force both parties to work together,” the Wall Street Journal observed. “But fresh Republican leadership could take the GOP in a new direction more responsive to the demands of former President Donald Trump and his allies—and less interested in reaching across the aisle.”
  • Fox News profiled Cornyn, the first contender to throw his hat in the ring. Cornyn’s “pitch is that he’s a proven election-winner with a track-record of building consensus to advance legislation. His statement pointed to his two terms as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, during which time Republicans unseated five Democrats and positioned the conference to capture the majority in 2014.”
  • The Editors of National Review said McConnell “made the difficult but correct decision that he was too old to continue in the job at his accustomed level of effectiveness,” but “will be remembered as one of the most skilled Senate leaders ever.” They concluded, “Senate Republicans would be wise to pick a successor who is also experienced and realistic, and avoid, at all costs, the dysfunction of the House. Whoever comes next will have the burden of filling the shoes of a man who deserves to be considered one of the great lions of the Senate.”


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© Dominic Moore, 2023