National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) has jumped into what's shaping up to be a long race for the number two Senate GOP spot against Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)
An Alexander versus Cornyn race for the Republican Whip position held by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) was always likely because Kyl is term-limited as Whip, GOP aides said.
But his announcement Thursday that he will not seek reelection accelerated maneuvering and prompted public announcements. Cornyn at first declined to comment on the Whip post, but aides made his intentions clear after Alexander's move. With Kyl planning to remain in his leadership job through his term, two members of GOP leadership now look set for nearly two years of jostling for support from GOP senators.
The Whip job entails counting votes and sometimes leaning on senators to vote with the party. More importantly whoever wins it will become a logical successor to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as Republicans hope, Majority Leader in 2012.
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) also announced yesterday that he will seek the Senate Republican Conference Chairman job Alexander now holds. Johanns, a former governor and Agriculture Secretary, appears to carry stature among Senate Republicans after two years of targeted success as legislating, a rarity for a freshman in the minority. A version of Johanns bill repealing a 1099 reporting requirement in the health care overhaul bill passed recently, though Democrats moved their own bill.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) who is mulling a presidential run, and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who have leadership roles, are good bets to seek more senior positions.
Updated 12:25 p.m.