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John Cornyn and John Thune

What are Thune and Cornyn up to this month?

The Senate GOP leadership elections are still eight months away, but congressional recesses are a good time for the candidates to focus on fundraising — a critical element of the GOP leader job.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who are vying to succeed Mitch McConnell, are using the time away from Washington to play up their fundraising chops.

It serves a dual purpose, allowing them to also make their case to non-incumbents who, if they win their races, will have a vote in the leadership races in late November. This is especially important given that the Senate map is very favorable to Republicans, meaning whoever wins the top job could very well be the majority leader come January 2025.

Thune: The current No. 2 in the Senate GOP leadership will be busy over the recess, campaigning for several candidates and incumbents, according to a person familiar with the South Dakotan’s political operation.

Thune is planning to do events in Nebraska for the state’s incumbent Republican senators, Deb Fischer and Pete Ricketts. Both are on the ballot in November because Ricketts was appointed to his seat after Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) resigned, and he’ll need to win a special election in order to complete Sasse’s term.

Immediately upon returning to Washington, Thune is appearing at an event with former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who’s running for Senate in the deep-blue state. Recent polls have shown that Hogan, a popular two-term governor, has the ability to make this a close race.

In recent days, Thune has traveled to Philadelphia to campaign with Dave McCormick, the NRSC-backed candidate challenging incumbent Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.). Thune also spoke remotely at an event for Eric Hovde, who’s challenging Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).

More fundraising trips to various states over the next two weeks are in the planning stages, we’re told.

Thune has closely coordinated his efforts with the NRSC, and he has $17 million in his reelection campaign account. Thune once transferred $2 million from that account to the NRSC — the largest single transfer in the Senate GOP campaign arm’s history. The South Dakota Republican has also done more than 200 events this cycle for candidates, incumbents and the NRSC.

We reported last week that Thune’s outside operation has added some heft, with Johnny DeStefano now running a C4 linked to Thune.

Cornyn: The Texas Republican, who spent six years as the No. 2 Senate Republican before he was term-limited out, hails from a large state with a wealthy base of Republican donors, giving him a unique advantage on the fundraising front.

A person familiar with Cornyn’s political operation said he’ll spend the recess “crisscrossing Texas and the country to help his Republican colleagues and candidates.” They did not give details of Cornyn’s travels.

Cornyn has been aggressive on the fundraising front in recent years, forming his own joint fundraising committee in 2021. Last cycle, Cornyn raised $20 million, which was the most of any GOP senator aside from the leader and the NRSC chair.

As of late February, Cornyn had raised $13 million in the 2024 cycle.

— Andrew Desiderio

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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.