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Another contest of interest is the race for Republican Conference vice chairman. Freshman Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.) is the only announced candidate, and he has accrued the public support of nearly a dozen Members, including many staunch conservatives but also a few establishment Republicans. Johnson's chances of winning the No. 5 leadership post could hinge on Blunt and whether he joins the race. Senate Republicans will make their selection in January.
The position is going to be vacant because of the trio of openings created by Alexander's decision to relinquish his position in January, almost a year before his term is up. Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Thune (S.D.), who also is considering a bid to become the Whip in the next Congress, is running for Conference chairman in the January leadership elections. Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.), the current Conference vice chairman, is running for Policy Committee chairman.