Mr. Graham, who along with Mr. Thune and Ms. Collins is part of a small group of senators who often dine together in Washington, said he had reassured Mr Thune about any Trumpian intervention before going on vacation.
“I told John it’ll be all right,” recalled Mr. Graham. “John will be fine.”
When asked if he thought the threat of a Trump-inspired primary was troubling Mr. Thune, Mr. McConnell said, “No. No, I don’t.”
But if Mr. Thune rose to the Republican Senate leadership, Mr. Trump could still have a headache.
The former president does not have the clout in the Senate, where 19 Republicans challenge him to support the infrastructure bill he has in the House. Yet Mr. Trump’s regular attacks on Mr. McConnell and on anything resembling collaboration with President Biden are not lost on Senate Republicans.
The Infrastructure Act at a glance
A handful of those whose seats rose in 2022, including Mr Thune, opposed the infrastructure bill after the former president’s ruthless criticism of the bipartisan measure made it difficult for Senate leaders to support the legislation.
Perhaps more important in regard to Mr Trump’s future influence is the Senate turnover and whether the retired mainstream Republicans, such as Senators Richard Shelby of Alabama, Rob Portman of Ohio and Roy Blunt of Missouri, will be replaced by Trump. supporters.
“We just have to plow through this into the post-Donald Trump era, which I think is coming,” Ms Collins said, lamenting that the former president “has made the leader, Mitch, worse lately”.
If Mr. Thune left, she said, she would be “really beside myself.”
Echoing Ms Collins, albeit not so unequivocally, as to why Mr Thune should stay, Mr Graham and Mr Cramer both said he could eventually succeed Mr McConnell, who will turn 80 in February. Mr Cramer said Mr Thune’s ascension would not happen “by default”, but that “it would be really good for the farm belt.”