Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-KY) apparently says that Kay Bailey Hutchison is likely to become chair of the Senate Republican Conference -- #3 in the Senate leadership. McConnell is expected to succeed Bill Frist as Majority Leader and current #3 Rick Santorum ought move into McConnell's Majority Whip position.
"A lot of us hope she will spend a long time with us," McConnell said.These are all elected by the Senate Republican Caucus, of course, so it is possible that Hutchison could face a challenge for the leadership positions.
If Santorum were defeated — he is facing a very tough race — Hutchison could move into the high-ranking whip position.
Hutchison did not respond to McConnell's statements, which may have been a hint that GOP leaders want her to avoid opposing Perry.
Her press secretary, Chris Paulitz, played down McConnell's statement, saying it was only logical she would become the conference chair because she is currently the vice chair.
McConnell's statements will not influence Hutchison's gubernatorial decision, which is expected in July, Paulitz said.
When Hutchison was elected to a 1995-2000 term, she said, "I've always said that I would serve no more than two full terms. This may be my last term, or I could run for one more. But no more after that. I firmly believe in term limitations, and I plan to adhere to that."
She repeated the pledge in 1994 TV campaign ads.
Regardless, the push-and-pull over her possible gubernatorial candidacy is under way.
Hutchison has expressed a desire to return home to raise her young son and daughter. Her latest approval rating of 67 percent among Texans far exceeds Perry's 45 percent, according to a recent Scripps Howard Texas poll.
In late April, Dallas GOP chairman and Perry contributor Nate Crain said Hutchison should drop the race because her considerations are dangerously dividing Texas Republicans.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee also wouldn't want to see her go.
"When you have a figure like her in the Senate, you are absolutely going to want to continue having her as part of your team," NRSC spokesman Brian Nick said. "Will there be senators encouraging her to stay in the Senate? The answer is yes."
Senate Republicans don't want Hutchison to run for governor because then they would have to send campaign money to Texas to defend Kay's open seat. Since Texas is a big state, that takes up lots of millions that could be spent elsewhere.
Still, it's surprising that McConnell would publicly hint that Hutchison should remain in the Senate.
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