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Posted at 12:22 PM ET, 02/22/2011

Sen. John Thune won't run for president in 2012

By Chris Cillizza

South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune has decided not to run for president in 2012, saying he wants to remain in the Senate to fight for conservative principles.

"There is a battle to be waged over what kind of country we are going to leave our children and grandchildren, and that battle is happening now in Washington, not two years from now," Thune said in a statement. "So at this time, I feel that I am best positioned to fight for America's future here in the trenches of the United States Senate."

Thune had been weighing a run for national office for months. He recently spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, a gathering widely regarded as one of the first cattle calls of the 2012 fight.

But Thune had sounded notes of reluctance, too -- singing the praises of the Senate and his ability to influence the national debate from his perch in the world's greatest deliberative body in a recent interview with Politico. "I like where I am," Thune said. "I like what I do."

According to those close to Thune, he had made few preparations that suggested he was on the precipice of running for national office -- none of the political spadework in places such as Iowa and New Hampshire that other potential rivals were doing.

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

And Thune's voting record in the Senate -- particularly his 2008 vote in support of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) -- may well have been the primary stumbling block in his consideration of a presidential bid.

Without Thune, it is now very likely that the Republican race will not include a single senator.

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.

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.

Thune is the second major contender to decide against the presidential race, joining Republican Indiana Rep. Mike Pence on the sidelines. (Pence is widely expected to run for governor of Indiana in 2012.)

And, Thune's decision is likely to kick off a series of go or no-go choices over the next few weeks from Republicans weighing the presidential race. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels are reportedly near decisions. Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty is also expected to enter the race.

By Chris Cillizza  | February 22, 2011; 12:22 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2012  
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