March 1, 2024

Trump Urges Sen. Daines to Seek Mitch McConnell's Leadership Role

Former President Donald Trump is urging Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) to consider running for GOP leader, a move that could potentially disrupt the race to succeed Mitch McConnell later this year.

As the current chair of Senate Republicans' campaign arm, Daines conveyed to Trump his appreciation for the encouragement but emphasized his focus on securing a Senate majority in the upcoming fall elections, according to an individual familiar with the conversation who spoke anonymously to discuss private matters.

In a brief interview on Thursday, Daines acknowledged expressing gratitude to Trump for his encouragement but refrained from making any definitive statements regarding a leadership bid.

“I told [Trump] the most important thing I can do at this moment is to ensure we have a Senate majority in November,” Daines stated.

Trump's endorsement of Daines occurred before McConnell announced his intention to step down from the leader position, according to another source familiar with the call.

In the coming months, Trump is expected to wield considerable influence in the selection of a new Republican leader, given his sway within the Senate Republican Conference as the likely presidential nominee for the party.

The leadership election among GOP senators is conducted via a secret ballot, which may mitigate Trump's direct impact on the outcome.

Potential leadership contenders may face scrutiny over their rapport with Trump, with some senators, such as John Thune (R-SD) and John Cornyn (R-TX), having experienced disagreements with Trump since his presidency.

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) is also considering a run for leader but has yet to announce his intentions; alternatively, he may vie for the position of whip. While Trump's endorsement carries weight, some Senate Republicans emphasize that the ultimate decision rests with the elected members of the chamber.

“I just don't think his opinion makes any difference. And that's not to discount how formidable he is about his views. It's just to say ‘Hey, man, here’s who we think is best reflective of the Senate,’” remarked Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), who is supporting Barrasso for leader.

Daines and Trump have collaborated during this campaign cycle in strategically endorsing candidates for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) primaries, aiming to bolster candidates capable of winning both primary and general elections.

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