Cornyn's rival doesn't sound like he wants hardball

Senators John Cornyn and John Ensign are both planning to run for vice chair of the Senate Republican Caucus, the #5 rung in the leadership ladder.

Ensign declared first, after making a deal with John Kyl and Kay Bailey Hutchison as to who would run where. Then, surprisingly, Cornyn jumped into the race as well, which would give Texas two of the lower ranking spots in the Senate leadership.

The Hill reports that the junior senator from Nevada doesn't seem to mind the challenge at all.

"I think he'd be a great member of leadership," Ensign said.

He said Cornyn told him as a courtesy that he was planning to jump into the race for vice chairman before going public with the news.

"I told him: 'Go for it,'" Ensign said. "Even if he beats me, he's a great guy."

Ensign, who is well-liked within the conference, said that he has spoken to almost every Senate Republican to seek their support and that he plans to keep campaigning for the leadership post. But his warm praise for his colleague signaled that Ensign might not be willing to engage in some of the tough politicking that has dominated other recent leadership battles.

"Sometimes people have hard feelings about leadership races and stuff," Ensign said, adding that he is not one of those people. He noted that he and Cornyn share a similar political philosophy.

"Obviously, I'll try to win," he added. "But it's kind of like two good friends battling."

Well it's always nice to know that your challenger doesn't seem likely to declare all-out war on you or let it affect your working relationship.

When Trent Lott ran for leadership after he'd been in the Senate a relatively short while, the senior senator from Mississippi Thad Cochran was known to be less than pleased. From what I've heard, their relationship could still be better.

Leadership contests are often nearly impossible to handicap, particularly a year and a half in advance. Ensign started first, has seniority over Cornyn, and may be seen as smoother in front of the cameras. On the other hand, Cornyn has quite the senatorial bearing himself. Cornyn also benefits from his close ties to the White House.

Kay Bailey Hutchison won't say who she's voting for. Cornyn didn't endorse Perry until after she bowed out, so she has to feel some loyalty there, but she also made the deal with Ensign.

Posted by Evan @ 07/28/05 03:15 AM


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