Thune: VP pick ‘imminent’ but senator doesn’t expect 'the call'Sen. John Thune was headed to Murdo Friday morning. The Republican senator’s small hometown in western South Dakota is a place where few if any reporters would hound him about his chances to become Mitt Romney’s running mate.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
Sen. John Thune was headed to Murdo Friday morning.
The Republican senator’s small hometown in western South Dakota is a place where few if any reporters would hound him about his chances to become Mitt Romney’s running mate. But during a telephone interview as he crossed the state, Thune said he doubts he will be the VP pick.
“No, I don’t expect a call,” he said. “My sense is that they’re moving in a different direction.”
Thune, 51, said he wasn’t sure what he would say if he was asked.
“I’m not sure I know the answer to that question,” Thune said. “I think it’s hard to say no when something of that magnitude comes along. It would be hard to say no.”
While he said he wants to “make a difference in public life,” he said he doubts he will be asked to run for vice president.
Romney is expected to name his running mate in the next few days, an assessment Thune agreed with Friday.
“My sense is that it happens pretty soon,” he said. “It’s getting to be imminent, I think.
“The campaign obviously wanted to wait until the governor got back from overseas and the Olympics were over,” Thune said.
He said he has not spoken to Romney for a few weeks, but if asked, he would tell the presumptive Republican nominee to pick someone who is “very competent and capable of serving if necessary” but also a running mate who would help “win this thing.”
Thune said he feels that would be someone who would help attract “independent and middle-of-the-road voters” who supported President Obama in 2008 but could be persuaded to vote Republican this time.
Still, Thune said running mates rarely have a major impact in the race.
“It’s not often a vice presidential choice makes a difference, except for 1960 when (Lyndon) Johnson helped (John F.) Kennedy carry Texas,” he said.
That might point to Sen. Rob Portman, of Ohio, since that is widely seen as a swing state that Romney needs to carry, he said.
Thune said he didn’t care to endorse any one candidate.
“I have so many friends being considered, I hate to slight any one of them,” he said. “I think I would tell him to pick somebody he’s comfortable with and has a vision for the country.”
But he did have some advice for Romney.
“He should make a bold choice to attract people to the ticket and win the election,” Thune said.
Romney needs to take such actions to establish his identity with voters, Thune said.
“I do think a lot of the attacks the Obama campaign has put on him has helped define him,” he said.
Thune said a candidate must “define yourself” and not allow that to be done by an opponent.
“In a campaign, you have to define yourself before people’s impressions have been hardened,” he said.
Thune said it appears the Romney camp wants to save its money for the final 60-day stretch. He said he hopes the attacks coming from the Obama campaign and its supporters don’t forge an image of Romney before that starts.
Thune said he will continue to campaign for Romney when asked and will also make appearances for other candidates who seek his support.
But right now he’s like everyone else: waiting to hear who Romney picks. He will surely be asked about all the VP speculation when he appears with CNN’s Candy Crowley on “State of the Nation” Sunday morning. The show airs at 8 a.m. and again at 11 a.m. Central time.
What the political chattering class wants to know is, when will Romney announce his choice? The former Massachusetts governor has said only he, his wife Ann, and his adviser Beth Myers are in the know.
But he admitted that Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is in the running for the VP choice, while pundits and politicians have pointed to Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who is a conservative favorite and the chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, among others.
Thune’s name has appeared on lists, but most say he is a long-shot.
His relatively low national profile, the fact that South Dakota, with only three electoral votes, is considered already a safe GOP state, and his lengthy career in Congress are cited as factors.
Democrats would be able to find things in Thune’s record to attack, according to reports, and also might target his work as a lobbyist and consultant during the two years he was out of office.
But all that political speculation was not the first thing on Thune’s mind Friday.
When he got to Murdo, Thune said he would check in with his father Harold, who is 92. Yvonne Thune, his wife, and Sen. Thune’s mother, died earlier this year.
The Thunes planned to play a round of golf Friday, and John Thune said he would also visit a high school classmate, whose mother recently died.
There would be plenty of time for politics down the road, he said.