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Is Sen. Thune Trying Out for Veep Nominee?

After making his third appearance on behalf of John McCain's presidential campaign in about as many weeks, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) has begun to look like he's at Major League tryout camp.

John Thune
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) (Alex Wong--Reuters)

On Thursday, Thune participated in a news conference in Washington to unveil a McCain campaign video slamming presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's "political posturing" on the Iraq war. That followed two conference calls with political reporters on behalf of the McCain campaign over the past several weeks, combined with numerous TV appearances and radio hits as a McCain surrogate.

Could Thune be trying out for the role of vice presidential running mate? He has certainly been mentioned widely of late as a potential contender for the veep slot.

Thune, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has developed a personal relationship with McCain over the past four years and has traveled with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee to Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. But the biggest thing Thune has going for him is -- in a word -- youth.

He's young, easy on the eyes, articulate and personable. At the ripe age of 47, standing tall, trim and fit, Thune's good looks could counterbalance McCain's most glaring liability: his old looks. McCain turns 72 next month and, thanks to the toll that battling skin cancer took on his visage, he looks every day his age.

Veteran GOP political consultant Dick Wadhams, who ran Thune's successful 2004 Senate campaign against then Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) says he thinks Thune could also appeal to the reservoir of independent and undecided voters who haven't rushed to embrace Obama. He thinks those voters could get the "change" factor without the fear of putting a novice in the White House.

"John Thune comes from the same age group as Obama, yet he'd be the vice presidential nominee," says Wadhams. "You'd have a very experienced, well-defined presidential candidate yet still have that generational message with John Thune."

Thune has an "aw, shucks" sort of reaction to talk of putting him -- instead of, say, a more seasoned politician like Mitt Romney -- on the GOP ticket with McCain.

"I'm just helping out where I can," Thune says. "I've traveled overseas with Senator McCain on several occasions and I've been very impressed with his command of the issues and the respect he receives from our military personnel, our military commanders and world leaders."

And he gives an answer other rumored vice presidential contenders in both parties tend to give. "I'm happy with the job I have," he says.

Which is to say, he'd obviously be open to a new one.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  July 18, 2008; 5:55 PM ET
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