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Thune: 'Timing didn't feel right' for presidential run

SIOUX FALLS -- Sen. John Thune likes that title, at least for now. Thune announced Tuesday he will not run for president and looks forward to continuing to serve in the Senate. "I've been conflicted on this for some time," he said during a phone ...

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Sen. John Thune and wife Kimberley speak to supporters in this photo from the South Dakota Republican Party Election Night event on Nov. 2 in Sioux Falls. (Chris Huber/Republic Photo)
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SIOUX FALLS -- Sen. John Thune likes that title, at least for now.

Thune announced Tuesday he will not run for president and looks forward to continuing to serve in the Senate.

"I've been conflicted on this for some time," he said during a phone interview with The Daily Republic following the announcement. "I could never get comfortable with leaving my day job behind.

"I like the job and I really like representing South Dakota. I want to have an impact in the Senate."

In November, Thune was elected without opposition to a second term in the Senate. He had revealed his interest in a presidential run before the Nov. 2 election and fueled speculation by touring the country, making appearances for other Republican candidates and appearing on TV and radio shows.

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Thune had said he would make his decision by the end of February. On Tuesday morning, Thune announced on his Facebook page and on JohnThune.com that he was not running.

"The timing did not feel right for me this time," he told The Daily Republic.

"I felt if you're going to do this, you've got to do it," Thune said. "I didn't want to do anything halfway. I think you either have to be all in or all out."

He said during the interview that he's not sure when he made his final decision, but he knew he wanted to announce it by the end of the month and wanted to be in South Dakota when he did so.

"I don't know that there was ever a day, a moment certain," Thune said. "We wanted to get the closure on it. You go back and forth on it and we did a number of times. It's been several months now involved in that."

He said he realizes he may regret his decision, at least for a moment or two, in the next few months.

"I've been going through that for several months," Thune said.

He said some days, he woke up and was ready to run.

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"Other days, I'm like, 'What am I thinking?'" Thune said.

The process of considering a presidential run started in the Black Hills last summer, Thune said.

He talked with his family about the 2012 campaign, including making a trip to his hometown of Murdo in August to talk with his father, Harold Thune, a Mitchell native.

They encouraged him to run -- if that's what he wanted to do.

Thune said he "brought in some advisers" and decided to "do some diligence" on his prospects.

President Obama has slumped in the polls and several Republicans have weighed a race against him.

Four former governors are among the most-mentioned GOP hopefuls: Sarah Palin, of Alaska; Mitt Romney, of Massachusetts; Mike Huckabee, of Arkansas; and Tim Pawlenty, of Minnesota.

Former speaker Newt Gingrich, of Georgia; Texas Gov. Rick Perry; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and several other Republicans also are eyeing a run in 2012.

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Last month, ABC News and The Washington Post released a poll of GOP hopefuls that was conducted Jan. 16. Thune came in last of 14 potential candidates with zero percent support.

On Feb. 11, as rumors swirled that he was not going to run for the White House, Thune took the stage as a prospective presidential candidate at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C.

"I'm betting that 2012 is going to be the year when we not only take back the Senate, but also the White House," he said.

He had discussed the race with his wife, Kimberley, and his daughters as well as with other family members, friends and close advisers.

"My wife's been really involved with this decision on a daily, even hourly basis," Thune said. "They were very committed to either decision."

He said his daughters would have been "great assets" on the campaign trail.

Thune said he was torn by the decision. While he looked forward to the campaigning, the travel and other details didn't appeal to him.

"I was sort of looking forward to going town to town and doing the grassroots retail politics we do in South Dakota," Thune said. "The travel part I didn't look forward to. The flying in commercial planes ..."

He said the pressure, scrutiny and schedule of a "modern political campaign" was something he considered.

"Those are all things that you weigh," Thune said.

New Hampshire politics is much like South Dakota campaigning, he said, with voters expecting to meet and talk with the candidates for the state's early primary. That appealed to him, Thune said, but not enough to pull him into the race.

Thune said he had not started to raise any money for the race.

"I didn't declare or even form an exploratory committee," he said.

Thune said he made the announcement on Facebook because many of his supporters rely on his page to learn about his actions.

It also allowed him to share it with all media and not play favorites.

"I think it was an attempt at new media obviously," he said of the Facebook post. "That way everybody gets the story at the same time."

Thune said there was a small chance he would change his mind and enter the race for the 2012 Republican nomination.

"I never totally rule anything out," he said. "You never know what's going to happen in the future."

Thune said he also wouldn't dismiss accepting the vice presidential nomination in 2012 if it was offered to him.

"I think that's all speculative at this point," he said. "I don't think you rule out options. For the foreseeable future, I think my work is in the United States Senate."

He said it's too early to discuss possible runs for the White House in 2016 or beyond.

"That's a long ways down the road," Thune said. "The decision was, not now. I don't think it means not ever."

He also declined to endorse any of the GOP candidates but called them "talented and experienced."

"Not at the moment," Thune said. "We'll see how the field looks."

Sen. Tim Johnson, who defeated Thune in a hard-fought race for the Senate in 2002, said he admired Thune's choice. The two senators now describe each other as friends.

"I respect John's decision not to run for president," Johnson said. "I know it must have been a difficult decision for him, Kimberley, and their family. I look forward to continuing to work with John in the Senate on the difficult challenges facing South Dakota and the nation."

Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said she was hoping Thune would run. The two campaigned together last fall during a bus tour across the state that included a stop in Mitchell on Oct. 29.

"Senator Thune would have made an excellent presidential candidate and I would have enthusiastically supported his candidacy, but his decision is South Dakota's gain," Noem said.

"I look forward to continuing in our work together representing South Dakota and fighting for more fiscal restraint in Washington," she added. "Economic challenges loom large, but Senator Thune will remain a strong voice, not only for South Dakotans, but all Americans who are concerned about our nation's course."

Thune's announcement drew considerable media attention, both in South Dakota and across the nation.

The Washington Post ran a story on Thune's decision and quoted an unnamed adviser to the South Dakota senator.

"John Thune doesn't wake up every day wanting to be president," the adviser told the Post. "He'd rather be at home in South Dakota than in California or New York raising money."

The Post said Thune's vote in 2008 in support of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) "may well have been the primary stumbling block in his consideration of a presidential bid."

Thune will instead focus his ambitions at climbing the GOP ladder in the Senate, according to the Post.

"Now out of the presidential mix, Thune could run for the post of Senate Minority Whip, a job that Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., will leave at the end of 2012. Thune, if he runs, will join Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and John Cornyn (Texas) in the race for Republicans' second-ranking leadership post in the Senate," the story said.

"Thune also could run for conference chairman, the third ranking leadership post that is being vacated by Alexander. Only Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns (R) is running for that job right now," the Post reported.

Related Topics: JOHN THUNE
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