Barrasso In The Hunt To Replace McConnell As Top Senate Republican

Although Sen. John Barrasso isn't favored to replace Mitch McConnell as the top Republican in the U.S. Senate, analysts say if favorites Sen. John Cornyn and Sen. John Thune "beat each other up enough," Barrasso could rise to the top.

Clair McFarland

February 29, 20244 min read

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With the announcement that Sen. Mitch McConnell won’t run again for Senate minority leader, Wyoming senior Sen. John Barrasso is on the short list of frontrunners to replace him.

Wyoming’s senior U.S. Senator remains tentative about the prospect of becoming the next Republican Senate minority leader, even while Washington, D.C., analysts call him a frontrunner for the job.

“My focus remains the people of Wyoming and securing a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate and a Republican in the White House,” U.S. Sen. John Barrasso told Cowboy State Daily in a Thursday email. “When it comes to leadership decisions, I’m going to take time to talk to senators and listen to them about what direction they want to take with our conference.”

Barrasso now ranks third in GOP leadership as Republican Conference Chairman, behind Republican Floor Leader Mitch McConnell, and former Republican Whip John Cornyn of Texas.

McConnell, 82, announced Wednesday that he will end his 17-year run as the party’s leader in November. The announcement comes amid growing concerns about the Kentucky senior senator’s health.

McConnell’s term isn’t up until 2026, and he remains a force on the most powerful Senate committee, Appropriations.

Should Republicans re-take the U.S. Senate, McConnell's successor would become majority leader. 

The Frontrunners

Cornyn is favored to win the seat, but so is Republican Whip Sen. John Thune, of South Dakota, a congressional advisor who wished to remain anonymous told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

Cornyn was Thune’s predecessor as minority whip, a position he left when he reached his term limit.

Barrasso also has an “outside shot,” especially if Thune and Cornyn “beat each other up,” said the advisor, adding that all three are well-liked by their Republican peers; Barrasso may be the most favorable toward Trump.

And despite a Libertarian social-media sound-off in favor of Sen. Rand Paul, McConnell’s junior Kentucky counterpart, the advisor deemed it impossible, saying Paul’s Republican peers do not favor him.

A Chess Board

Longtime Wyomingite and former D.C. staffer Pete Obermueller echoed the “three Johns” prediction, saying Barrasso should have as fair a chance as the other two. Obermueller worked as legislative director for now-Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyoming, from 2008-2014 during her term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I would imagine he’s certainly in the discussion, as he should be. He’s got a proven record and works very hard for Wyoming,” said Obermueller of Barrasso. “Not sure anyone deserves it more.”

Cornyn and Thune are also both “effective,” Obermueller added.

He countered the Washington, D.C., analyst, saying this is not as much a popularity contest as a contest at being effective, visionary, and strategic toward advancing the Republican agenda.

MSN News threw in a fourth possibility: Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who challenged McConnell for the seat after the 2022 elections and lost 37-10.

Obermueller indicated a Scott selection would reflect a pivot in the GOP trajectory, noting that Scott has been critical of McConnell in the past.

As for stray calls for Paul, Obermueller said he would not expect a Paul win, but then, he didn’t expect the U.S. House to choose Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, as Speaker either.

“So anything is possible,” he said.  

Cheers From Lummis

Lummis is rooting for Barrasso, if the latter declares his interest.

“There is no one in the Senate who I respect more than my Wyoming counterpart John Barrasso, and would proudly support him if he decides to enter the race,” said Lummis in a Thursday email.

Clair McFarland can be reached at

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter