CNN, Times single out ThuneWhile the nation has been focused on Sarah Palin and her prospects as a 2012 presidential candidate, insiders in Washington have begun putting out a story about another GOP rising star, South Dakota’s John Thune. In recent days, the Rushmore State’s junior senator has been the subject of a New York Times column and a CNN profile making note of things familiar to Thune’s constituents.
By: Denise Ross, The Daily Republic
While the nation has been focused on Sarah Palin and her prospects as a 2012 presidential candidate, insiders in Washington have begun putting out a story about another GOP rising star, South Dakota’s John Thune.
In recent days, the Rushmore State’s junior senator has been the subject of a New York Times column and a CNN profile making note of things familiar to Thune’s constituents. He’s tall, he’s tan, he’s bright, he’s polite. And not least, he’s a rock-ribbed conservative who’s risen during his freshman term into the GOP Senate leadership. They’ve stopped short of saying one thing: “He’s perfect.” But read between the lines, and you get that message, too.
So as Palin and a few other usual suspects make a lot of pundits’ lists for the GOP’s 2012 crop, somebody is working to get Thune on that list. Exactly who that is, we’ll probably never know. The official response from Thune’s office comes from spokeswoman Andi Fouberg:
“Sen. Thune remains focused on issues important to South Dakotans and his re-election campaign. He will continue to push for ending the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and look for other ways to put the brakes on out of control spending in Washington, underscore the need to pass true bipartisan health care reform that lowers the cost of health care, and ensure that proposed cap and trade legislation doesn’t raise energy costs for consumers in South Dakota.”
While Thune won’t directly address the question of a 2012 candidacy, Northern State University political science associate professor Jon Schaff has given the notion some thought.
Thune has a lot of appeal as a presidential candidate, Schaff says, but he lacks a “natural constituency” that would catapult him to the front of the pack. He’s a gifted politician who hasn’t yet broken out.
“He is an extremely personable and well-spoken person who has a way of taking policy and making it understandable to people and expressing himself in a clear and even folksy way,” Schaff said. “He exudes competence and charisma. He exudes regular guy.”
Make that a regular guy who has an “extraordinary command of policy.”
Thune’s defeat of Senate leader Tom Daschle in 2004 gave the now 48-year-old a national profile and more attention than he could have otherwise expected, Schaff said.
At the same time, the Murdo native is missing a key component that would make a presidential run a success, Schaff said.
“It’s hard to see precisely what his natural constituency is. Palin has the more populist part of the party, the tea-party goers. (Mike) Huckabee has strong support amongst social conservatives. (Mitt) Romney is the competent economic management conservative. Thune kind of gets lost in that,” he said. “Who votes for him in the primary?”
This could be overcome, Schaff said, and Thune would have to figure out how to do that should he decide to run for president.
Given Thune’s history of unlikely electoral success, I’m not ready to bet against him.
Denise Ross publishes Hoghouseblog.com. She writes from Rapid City about South Dakota’s congressional delegation.