I don’t know if the Senate Republican Conference has informal rules like those of Tudor England, in which publicly contemplating the death of the monarch was considered an act of treason. But clearly, when Politico‘s Raju and Bresnahan started asking Senate Republicans who would become their leader if Mitch McConnell were, as polls have suggested is a possibility, to lose his own seat this November, they went scurrying for cover, probably crossing themselves. It is, Raju and Bresnahan say, a “taboo subject.” So they have to do some guessing on their own.

You’d normally figure the second-place person in the leadership structure, Sen. John Cornyn of TX, would step right in if the Great Mitch fell. But maybe not:

Cornyn’s ascension to the top spot is hardly a lock. A McConnell loss would mean Republicans would most likely still be in the Senate minority, and some GOP senators would be looking for a fresh face to pull the party out of the political wilderness, set policy priorities and drive the national message.

There also appears to be concern among a handful in the Republican Conference that a Minority Leader Cornyn would be hamstrung by the whims of his fellow Texan and conservative firebrand Ted Cruz, pulling the party further to the right.

Now that’s hilarious: a national Republican leader and senior senator is so terrified of his freshman colleague that he can’t be trusted to see straight. That tells you who’s calling the shots in today’s GOP: for all the macho talk by people like McConnell, it’s not those pragmatists of the “Republican Establishment.” Mitch can’t even designate his own successor, it seems, without worrying about Ted Cruz.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.