No more GOP Senate hold-outs: Thune announces bid for re-election, as does Ron Johnson

(AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

For several months there has been speculation over whether or not Senator John Thune (R-SD) will run for re-election. Thune put the speculation to rest by announcing he is seeking re-election. He set the announcement out via Twitter.


Thune is the number two Republican in the Senate, the Senate Minority Whip. At the age of 61, he’s young compared to some of the others in Republican leadership. Mitch McConnell, the current Senate Minority Leader, is turning 80 next month. Thune is a close ally of McConnell’s. Thune pointed to his position in leadership as a plus for South Dakota’s voters.

“South Dakota deserves a strong and effective senator who can deliver the results they expect,” he said in a statement. “I am uniquely positioned to get that job done, and I look forward to earning the support of South Dakotans in the 2022 election for U.S. Senate.”

A former chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and former chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, Thune first came to Capitol Hill in 1997 as the representative for South Dakota’s lone district, serving three terms before joining the Senate in 2004.

Thune is in line to replace McConnell when McConnell decides to retire. McConnell publicly encouraged Thune to say yes to re-election.

In a late December a radio interview, he called Thune an ‘outstanding senator,’ before adding it ‘would be real setback for the party and for the country if he retired and I certainly hope he won’t.’

The odds of a Republican majority in the Senate coming in as a result of the 2022 midterm elections are looking favorable which likely was a reason that Thune decided to stay put. He won’t have any trouble being re-elected. There are five Republicans who are not running for re-election – Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Rob Portman of Ohio, Richard Shelby of Alabama and Richard Burr of North Carolina. It looks good for all of these seats to remain Republican and for Republicans to flip a Democrat seat to overturn control of the Senate, perhaps in Arizona or Georgia. Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont is the only Democrat to announce retirement.


Thune is a loyal Republican who supports the party’s agenda though he did get sideways with Trump over his refusal to challenge the results of the election in Congress. He said that Trump “would go down like a shot dog” if the challenge went forward. Trump called for South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem to challenge Thune for the seat but she declined, calling Thune a friend and saying she would run for re-election as governor.

In response, Trump would go on to call Thune a ‘RINO,’ otherwise known as a Republican in name only, go so far as to ask South Dakota GOP Governor Kristi Noem to launch a primary challenge against Thune to remove him from his senate post.

Shortly after, Noem would go on to tweet that she would not be running against Thune, despite Trump’s pleas.

‘John Thune is a friend of mine, and I will not be challenging him,’ Noem tweeted back in December 2020.

‘I’m honored to be Governor of South Dakota and will ask the people to give me an opportunity to continue serving them as Governor in 2022.’

Thune has pushed back on the January 6 commission in the House and calls for forward thinking, not dwelling on the past.

Thune has, of late, pushed against the House investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which was carried out by supporters of the former president. Thune has said investigating the attack could hurt Republican chances in the 2022 midterms.

“A lot of our members, and I think this is true of a lot of House Republicans, want to be moving forward and not looking backward,” Thune told CNN in May. “Anything that gets us rehashing the 2020 elections I think is a day lost on being able to draw a contrast between us and the Democrats’ very radical left-wing agenda.”

Thune has also spent the last year pushing against President Biden’s agenda, calling parts of it a “$5 trillion down payment on socialism.”


National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Rick Scott (R-FL) is pleased. He knows that Thune’s re-election will be a reliable victory. The committee endorses incumbent Republican senators.

“John Thune has served South Dakotans with humble strength since his very first day in the Capitol, and the NRSC is proud to endorse his 2022 reelection,” Scott said. “Having risen through the ranks and into leadership, Senator Thune has given an out-sized voice to South Dakota farmers, ranchers, families, and job creators.”

So, this left only one Republican senator up for re-election to announce plans for a re-election bid. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson announced his decision this morning to seek re-election. It was widely speculated in recent days that his announcement was coming soon. His race will be a more difficult one against Democrat challengers.

“Today, I am announcing I will continue to fight for freedom in the public realm by running for re-election,” he said in a campaign statement.

“It is not a decision I have made lightly. Having already experienced a growing level of vitriol and false attacks, I certainly don’t expect better treatment in the future,” Johnson added. “In order for my campaign to succeed, I will need the support of every Wisconsinite who values the truth and refuses to allow lies and distortions to prevail.”

Trump encouraged Johnson to run again. Johnson pledged to only serve two terms as senator but is now running for his third. Democrats plan to use that broken promise against him in the election. His announcement clears the Republican field in the primary as other Republicans were waiting for his decision. The state is in play and there is a crowded Democrat field of candidates.


“Let’s hold him to his promise of serving two terms,” contender Tom Nelson, county executive for Outagamie, tweeted last week.

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, another Democratic candidate, also weighed in as word trickled out last week that Johnson was about to confirm his re-election bid.

“The only people cheering Johnson’s decision are the wealthy special interests and big donors who have made a killing during his time in Washington,” Barnes said in a campaign statement Friday. “He promised to stand up for working families, but instead opposed critical economic relief for families and small businesses, while helping to write the law that gives millions in tax breaks to the ultra-wealthy.”

Kevin Nicholson, a Marine veteran who lost a GOP Senate primary in 2018, has said he would run for governor if Johnson decided to seek reelection. Nicholson would face Rebecca Kleefisch, a former lieutenant governor, in the Republican primary.

So far things are going well. Biden continues to show his incompetence in office and his low polling numbers reflect the disapproval from Independents of his performance. This is dragging down Democrats. There is no reason to doubt a red tsunami in the midterm elections in 2022.

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