Mar 1, 2024 - News

Cornyn, Paxton trade more blows

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appear in side-by-side photos

Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images and Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

John Cornyn, Texas' senior U.S. senator, has a Ken Paxton problem.

Why it matters: Republicans are poised to retake the Senate, and Cornyn announced yesterday that he wants to succeed Mitch McConnell as GOP Senate leader.

  • "Throughout my time I've built a track record of listening to colleagues and seeking consensus, while leading the fight to stop bad policies that are harmful to our nation and the conservative cause," Cornyn said in a statement announcing his bid.

The intrigue: After former President Trump won the New Hampshire primary in January, Cornyn kissed the ring, declaring his support for Trump.

What they're saying: "It will be difficult for Cornyn to be an effective leader since he is anti-Trump, anti-gun, and will be focused on his highly competitive primary campaign in 2026," Paxton tweeted Wednesday.

  • "Hard to run from prison, Ken," Cornyn, who is a former Texas attorney general, shot back at the indicted Trump surrogate.

Between the lines: "I expect the intraparty battle for party leader will β€” in this time when fealty to Trump matters more than fidelity to an ideology β€” be a display of who can best front the Trump agenda," Andrea Hatcher, a politics professor at the University of the South and the author of the book "Majority Leadership in the U.S. Senate," tells Axios.

πŸ’­ Our thought bubble: Cornyn is a savvy operator, and to get the Senate leadership job his constituents will be the other 50-odd GOP members.

  • In this clubby group, Paxton is something of a hinterlands novelty β€” which is probably why Cornyn feels emboldened to dish out the retorts.

What's next: This could be building to a Republican primary battle royale in 2026, when Cornyn will be up for re-election.

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