By Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 10, 2011; 10:03 PM
Sen. Jon Kyl, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, announced Thursday that he will not run for reelection next year.
That set off a race within the GOP caucus for his position as minority whip. Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) will run for the spot, an aide said, and Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is expected to vie for it as well. If Sen. John Thune (S.D.) decides against running for president, he is likely to enter the contest as well.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Kyl's retirement will be a "big loss" for the country.
Kyl, 68, told reporters in Phoenix that he is confident that he would win if he ran again, adding: "There is no reason other than the fact that I think it's time." He revealed that he had all but decided that he would not run again when he won six years ago.
As for the future, "I wouldn't close my mind to being a vice presidential candidate," he told reporters. "Having said that, I expect the chances of that are zero."
Kyl, who was first elected in 1994, is the fifth senator to announce he will not seek reelection in 2012, after Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D), Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.).