Senator John Thune (R-SD) is profiled in a Washington Post piece today as he continues to consider a White House run in 2012.
In the seven years since the South Dakotan was labeled a Republican golden boy after unseating Senate Democratic leader Thomas A. Daschle, Thune has not set himself apart on a single issue in Washington. And then with his 2008 vote for the bank bailouts, Thune agitated his party’s conservative base.
Although Thune is usually liked if not loved by Republicans who know of him, he does not have an impassioned following. Unlike a string of governors and former governors eyeing a presidential run, he can’t claim executive experience. In fact, he has spent most of his career in government or politics.
And when Thune talks, in interviews and in speeches, he sticks to generic phrases that neither offend nor excite.
Yet more than a few powerful boosters, among them Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), think this could be his moment. And Thune agrees.
The Republican Party is searching not just for a standard-bearer to go up against Obama next year, but for a new identity in a new political environment – a person who can embody last year’s dramatic change and tea party-led toppling of one-party rule, while still being a leader for the whole GOP. As the presidential field takes shape, with no overwhelming Republican front-runner and a cast of flawed potential hopefuls, there’s initial buzz about Thune.
Some Republicans think this handsome son of the High Plains could bridge the party’s establishment with its grass-roots rowdies. In Thune, Republicans see a fresh, unflappable face who looks like he is destined to be president – tall, plain-spoken, homespun. What’s more, they argue, Obama didn’t have any more political or business experience than Thune when he ran.
Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) likes the idea of Thune running.
"He’s probably gone back and forth any number of times already," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), who said he thinks Thune would be a "hell of a president" and has discussed the possibility with him many nights over pizza and Chinese food.
A noteworthy quote from Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN) on Thune:
Thune chairs the Senate Republican Policy Committee, the No. 4 leadership position, and presides over the GOP senators’ private lunches every Tuesday. Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.), the most senior Republican senator, said Thune plays his role "with grace and diplomacy." But when asked whether he has shown leadership on a specific policy issue, Lugar said: "I’ve not observed that."