After keeping his plans close to the vest since Election Day, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) formally declared his bid for minority whip on Monday evening.
Lott had refrained from openly discussing his intentions for the whip race even after GOP Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who was next in line based on seniority, lost his reelection bid last week. Few on Capitol Hill would second-guess Lott’s prowess at backroom maneuvering, and his silence had given way to questions about whether a new feint was in the works.
But Lott spokeswoman Susan Irby confirmed his bid in a statement. "Senator Lott is running for Republican whip. His name will be on the ballot. We are closing in on victory," she said.
Lott was forced to step down as Senate majority leader in 2002 after comments he made at former Sen. Strom Thurmond’s (R-S.C.) birthday party touched off a racially charged controversy and the White House threw its backing to now-Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).