Although the story of congressional retirements heading into 2022 remains the nearly two dozen Democrats in the House heading out, Republican Senate number two John Thune of South Dakota is reportedly also looking for the exit off Capitol Hill.
Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranking Senate Republican and a potential future leader, is seriously considering retiring after next year, a prospect that has set off an intensifying private campaign from other Republicans urging him to seek re-election.
Mr. Thune is only 60, but a combination of family concerns and former President Donald J. Trump’s enduring grip on the Republican Party have prompted the senator, who is in his third term, to tell associates and reporters in his home state that 2022 could be his last year in Congress.
His departure would be a blow to South Dakota, which has enjoyed outsize influence in Washington, and could upend Senate Republicans’ line of succession. Mr. Thune has been open about his ambition to lead his party’s caucus after Senator Mitch McConnell makes way, and quiet but unmistakable jockeying is already underway between him and Senators John Cornyn of Texas and John Barrasso of Wyoming.
“John is the logical successor should Mitch decide to not run again for leader,” Senator Susan Collins of Maine said of Mr. Thune, while noting that Mr. McConnell’s hold on their caucus remained “very secure.”
That Mr. Thune would even entertain retirement with the chance to ascend to Senate Republican leader illustrates both the strain of today’s Congress and the shadow Mr. Trump casts over the party. The senator’s departure would represent yet another exit, perhaps the most revealing one yet, by a mainstream Senate Republican who has grown frustrated with the capital’s political environment and the former president’s loyalty demands. The exodus began in 2018 with Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker retiring rather than facing primaries, and has accelerated this year.
Part of Mr. Thune’s hesitation owes to Mr. Trump and the potential for the former president — who lashed out at Mr. Thune early this year when the senator rejected his attempts to overturn the election — to intervene in South Dakota’s Senate primary race. But the larger factor may be the longer-range prospect of taking over the Senate Republican caucus with Mr. Trump still in the wings or as the party’s standard-bearer in 2024.
Mr. Thune has said he will decide his intentions over the holidays. Yet a number of his friends and colleagues have become convinced that he is serious about leaving public life.
Among those alarmed is Mr. McConnell himself, who one adviser said had “leaned in” on pushing Mr. Thune to run again.
“I certainly hope that he will run for re-election, and that’s certainly what I and others have been encouraging him to do all year long,” Mr. McConnell said in an interview.
Jon Martin at the Times makes it clear that doing Trump's personal bidding for another decade after Mitch settles back down here in KY is absolutely not in his cards, and he basically has that seat for life. To give that up makes me think there's a lot more to the story.
It's certainly not that Thune is a moral man, he's a Republican after all.
Sadly, it just means he'll be replaced by a Republican 100% loyal to Trump instead of say, 95%.