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Thune: 'It's probably hard to say no' to VP spot

One the eve of this year's vice presidential debate, U.S. Sen. John Thune said it would've been tough to turn down a chance to serve as Donald Trump's running mate.

U.S. Senator John Thune speaks to Kent VanOverschelde's civics class on Monday afternoon at Mitchell High School. (Matt Gade / Republic)
U.S. Senator John Thune speaks to Kent VanOverschelde's civics class on Monday afternoon at Mitchell High School. (Matt Gade / Republic)

One the eve of this year's vice presidential debate, U.S. Sen. John Thune said it would've been tough to turn down a chance to serve as Donald Trump's running mate.

While speaking to a group of American government students at Mitchell High School on Monday, South Dakota's senior senator answered a question posed by MHS teacher and former state legislator Mel Olson about whether he would have accepted a spot on the Republican Party ticket in 2016.

"It's a hypothetical because I never had that option, and it's probably, when you get asked, it's probably hard to say no," Thune said.

Thune is currently the third-ranking Senate Republican, he chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and is seeking his third consecutive term in a race against Yankton Democrat Jay Williams. But even with a list of credentials, including three terms as a U.S. Representative, Thune said he hasn't made it to the short list of vice presidential choices.

And what may have prevented him from a spot on the ticket this year, Thune said, was early critiques of Trump throughout the nominating process.

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"This time around, I was fairly critical during the nomination process of some of the things that he was doing and saying, and so I think that probably bears a little bit on how - whether or not you get considered further," Thune said. "But he had a short list of people, and I wasn't on it."

Despite being left off the list, Thune said Trump made a good choice in Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. Thune called Pence a "strong, principled conservative" who is the direct contrast of Trump.

Olson, a 12-year Democratic state lawmaker, long-time teacher and current Mitchell City Councilman, suggested Thune and other well-known South Dakota politicians face a major hurdle when seeking national public office.

"I'm a Democrat, but I think you're a great senator, but I think your problem in rising to national office is not you, I think it's South Dakota," Olson said. "You know, if you were from Ohio or you were from California, someplace that had some electoral votes, but you look at this region and you add up all the electoral votes and you get Ohio with like eight states."

Thune agreed, pointing to a handful of notable South Dakota politicians, like former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who have risen to prominence without reaching national office.

"But when it comes to national elections, presidential elections, yes, they're generally looking for somebody that brings more electoral oomph to the ticket," Thune said.

'Don't be afraid'

Thune also visited with a group of first-year students in MHS teacher Kent VanOverschelde's civics class on Monday, where he offered the group some advice on ways to both achieve their goals or enter the political arena.

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After telling the students the story of how he got interested in politics, by telling his usual speech about meeting former U.S. Congressman Jim Abdnor, Thune provided a helpful tip to the students.

"I don't know what you guys are thinking about what you want to do when you grow up yet, someday you will, and sometimes doors will open a little bit for you that you might not have anticipated," Thune said. "Don't be afraid to kind of push that door open and see what's on the other side."

Before leaving VanOverschelde's classroom - on a day that also included visits to the Bridgewater-Emery School and Muth Electric in Mitchell - he urged the students to continue studying government, even if it may not always be exciting.

"If you think about it, and I hope you guys will do this sometime when you get out to Pierre and look at what's happening in state Legislature or come visit Washington, D.C. and see it up close and personal, because it really is important for our system of government, for democracy to work, to have citizens that are engaged and active and paying attention and participating," Thune said.

Related Topics: JOHN THUNEELECTION 2016
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