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The discovery of John Thune

The Fix
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) may be the "next big thing" in the Republican party.

For months -- if not years -- the Republican/conservative smart set has been looking for a fresh face on which to hang their hopes and dreams.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune may be that person.

Witness a conventional-wisdom setting column penned over the weekend by the New York Times' David Brooks -- the Fix's favorite conservative commenter -- that touts Thune as the Next Big Thing.

Writes Brooks of Thune:

"He is a gracious and ecumenical legislator, not a combative one. When you ask him to mention authors he likes, he mentions C.S. Lewis and Jeff Shaara, not political polemicists. The first person who told me I had to write a column about Thune was a liberal Democratic senator who really likes the guy."

Brooks casts Thune as the antidote to the ongoing civil war within the GOP between establishment types and the conservative base of the party. "Republican pros are attracted to Thune because he could rally the hard-core conservatives without scaring away the suburbanites," writes Brooks.

The Brooks column comes as Thune is working quietly but clearly to raise his national profile. Having taken over control of the Republican Policy Committee following the decline and fall of Sen. John Ensign (Nev.) over the summer, Thune has become a regular on the cable television circuit -- usually to articulate the conservative point of view on the economy. (In an interview with Fox Business Channel's Neil Cavuto on Monday, Thune called the health care bill a "monstrosity" and vowed to stay in the Senate through the holidays to fight it if necessary.)

And, he is also using his policy perch to fight for core conservative principles within the confines of the Senate. Thune along with Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah and Mike Johanns of Nebraska plans to unveil legislation to sunset the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) -- a symbol of the sort of government involvement in the private sector that rankles conservatives -- later today.

Although Thune is broadening his national profile, he is clearly mindful of letting his ambitions run away with themselves ala George Allen in 2006. Allen, a Virginia Senator, was widely expected to cruise to re-election that year and was already preparing for a presidential run in 2008; that dual (and dueling) focus led to distraction on the campaign trail for Allen, the "macaca" moment and his eventual defeat at the hands of Sen. Jim Webb.

Hoping to avoid that same fate, Thune is keeping his own re-election race in 2010 front and center despite the fact that the only Democrat mentioned is Matt McGovern whose claim to fame is that he is the grandson of former South Dakota Sen. George McGovern (D). An example of that "2010 first" mentality: Thune has no political travel for other candidates on his schedule, according to his office.

And yet, it's clear that should McGovern take a pass -- the state's filing deadline is March 30 -- Thune has already put the pieces in place to immediately begin planning for a national bid.

First and foremost, Thune has proven himself an able fundraiser despite the lack of a serious race on the horizon. Thune ended September with $5.5 million in the bank, having raised nearly $9 million since defeating then Sen. Tom Daschle (D) in 2004. Thune has raised another $125,000 into his Heartland Values leadership PAC but would almost certainly turn his attention to raising far more -- and doling it out to aspiring candidates -- if he decided to position himself for a presidential run.

Thune's fundraising capability is significantly higher than the average Senator due to his defeat of Daschle in 2004, a race that turned him into a national hero to the conservative right. Thune raised $14.5 million for that contest despite not officially announcing his candidacy until January 2004. A national fundraising presence is an absolute necessity when one considers the tens (hundreds?) of millions it will take to run and win the Republican presidential primary in 2012and Thune begins with at least the skeleton of one.

Thune has also put together a solid core of well-regarded political advisers that could quickly shift from his re-election in 2010 to a presidential run in 2012. That team is led by Justin Brasell who managed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (Ky.) re-election race in 2008.

Brasell is considered among the top campaign managers in the country and wouldn't be biding his time in Sioux Falls if there wasn't at least the possibility that Thune had something larger planned in the future. Thune's consulting team -- Glen Bolger is the pollster, Scott Howell is the media consultant -- is also top-notch.

Does all of the above mean that Thune is running for president in 2012? No. But, it does mean that should he flip the switch to consider such a race, the work he has done -- from a policy, fundraising and staffing perspective -- put him in place to be taken very seriously in a field that remains very much a work in progress.

And, it's why Thune is the Fix's 2012 darkhorse.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 17, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2012  
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The lefty South Dakota bloggers are a sophisticated (and snarky) bunch. They are overloading the comments here so that the elitist liberals on the East and Left Coasts who don't even know South Dakota is a state will think Thune is some kind of hypocritcal hick.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

A matchup between Obama and Thune would be a dream come true for real Republican conservatives. There is nothing the liberals can aim at Thune that can't be thrown back 10 times worse against Obama.

That's why the lefty bloggers, who in no way represent the majority of South Dakotans, are already on the prowl.

Posted by: Darlene_Jr | November 22, 2009 7:28 AM | Report abuse

"Conspicuously absent from Brooks' appraisal is John Thune's record as a representative in the House, the nature of his campaign against Tom Daschle, the absurd and pointless and hypocritical legislation he is currently sponsoring, and the fact that he is a script reader who plays a role designed by political hacks. "

from dlnewquist's link

Posted by: margaretmeyers | November 18, 2009 6:44 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: dlnewquist | November 18, 2009 12:49 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: dlnewquist | November 18, 2009 12:48 AM | Report abuse

Next up for president? The Senator From Your Credit Card Company. Looks like Pat Boone, and like him worships at a far-right church.

Try again, Repubs.

Posted by: misterjrthed | November 17, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Like Pres. Obama, Sen. Thune is tall, slender, and has a good jump shot. Unlike Pres. Obama, my fellow South Dakotan will not be the next President of the United States. Or the one after that. Or after that. Or the one after that one either. But he is a genuinely nice guy--and very, very conservative.

Posted by: toddepp | November 17, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

"Allen, a Virginia Senator, was widely expected to cruise to re-election that year and was already preparing for a presidential run in 2008; that dual (and dueling) focus led to distraction on the campaign trail for Allen, the "macaca" moment and his eventual defeat at the hands of Sen. Jim Webb."

No. What led to the "macaca" moment was the fact that George Allen is a hate-filled racist.

Posted by: kenonwenu | November 17, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

By the time 2012 rolls around, practically anyone other than Obama will be acceptable.

Posted by: kenpasadena | November 17, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Has anybody actually heard him talk. He isnt that bright and has a weird look to his cheeks.

Posted by: tallertapas311 | November 17, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

It'll be jerry in CA:

GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman went on a radio ad blitz in October, but that only accounts for a part of a huge variance in polls on the race. At the beginning of the month, the Field Poll showed Whitman at 22 percent and fellow Republican Tom Campbell at 20 percent. At the end of the month, a Capitol Weekly/Probolsky poll showed Whitman at 34 percent and Campbell at 12.5 percent.

A few days after the Probolsky poll, an L.A. Times/USC poll showed Whitman at 35 percent and Campbell at 27 percent. The
However, the Times poll found that two-thirds of the voters had "no impression" of Whitman or Campbell – and that all polling matching the Republicans against Democrats show Jerry Brown with a broad lead. Republican Steve Poizner was running well behind the others in all three polls.

Posted by: drindl | November 17, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Thune is more likely a VP pick in 2012, especially if a Southern conservative like Huckabee takes the nomination.

I'm still thinking it will be Pat Robertson vs. Mitch Daniels for the Republican nomination in 2016. If Thune isn't on the ticket in 2012, he will be a player in some capacity in 2016.

Posted by: Gallenod | November 17, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

John Thune also made a lot of money as a lobbyist for a railroad seeking a ton of federal money. Well documented stories in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about his efforts, both before he was elected to the Senate and afterwards.

Posted by: ltolson | November 17, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Rev. Moon is a 'conservative' remember? He belongs to folks like you, limpin.

Posted by: drindl | November 17, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

OMG another religious right nutball case. He is hiding his definite conservative fundamentalist views for the present. Believe me, this guy is another Southern conservative who happens to be from South Dakota. His brother runs one of those "cradle to the grave" community churches here in Indian Wells, California where people are urged to donate their houses, cars, etc. The last pastor there had to resign in shame after bilking the church for millions. Now, here is this guys brother - beware beware beware and be very afraid- he is another nutball who just happens to be cloaking his crazy views in order to run for congress and heaven forbid, the presidency. I am so glad I am an atheist - I just wish everyone else was since religious bigots are about to destory this country.

Posted by: sheilab2 | November 17, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Wait! I'm having a vision. Next week''s "Fix" headline: "Thune-Palin in 2012?"


URGENT TO VP BIDEN (c/o Jay Carney): Today's Drudge Report headline -- web site "embarrassment" -- the purposeful work of a cyber psy op intended to subvert the Obama-Biden administration? Consider asking Roslyn Mazer at Office of DNI to investigate. Also, please know this:



More "Stupid 'Humint' Surveillance Tricks" By "Fusion Center" Operatives

Note: the price of reporting these stories is constant interference with my telecommunications -- not just censorship, but malicious tampering that constitutes harassment. When will the Obama administration wake up and smell the police state that makes a mockery of the rule of law and is subverting its policies from within?

Posted by: scrivener50 | November 17, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

The Unification Church of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, whose son Preston controls the paper, is known for its mass weddings, in which Rev. Moon is said to often personally make matches based on photographs of brides and grooms.

Posted by: drindl
There is hope that your love life can change.

Posted by: leapin | November 17, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Washington Times editorial page editor Richard Miniter is filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the paper today, alleging discrimination based on age, disability, and religion -- being forced to attend a Unification Church mass wedding -- and he will ask the government to enjoin the Times' assets, his lawyer tells TPM.

The development adds to an already daunting mess of problems at the newspaper, whose top executives were fired last week, and whose executive editor resigned.

"The state of affairs at the Washington Times, to put it mildly, is in disarray," attorney Larry Klayman tells TPM. "What we're seeking to do is to freeze everything right now." Klayman, whose firm is based in Washington and Florida, is the founder of conservative legal group Judicial Watch.

The Unification Church of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, whose son Preston controls the paper, is known for its mass weddings, in which Rev. Moon is said to often personally make matches based on photographs of brides and grooms.

Posted by: drindl | November 17, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

SD is not in list of 10 states in deep fiscal trouble so let’s give him a break. By the way 8 of those 10 states have illustrious liberal neocom statist destructionist leadership and one CA is led by a Hollywood Rino. Aren’t most of US cities in fiscal trouble also led by libs?

Posted by: leapin | November 17, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

here's a good example of the flipfloppery involved:

Over the course of the last three years, Pawlenty has gone from an outspoken proponent of clean energy to a Glenn Beck pandering climate change denier:

Dec. 2006: Pawlenty lays out an ambitious clean energy program for Minnesotans to reduce their use of fossil fuels 15 percent by 2015. Cutting greenhouse gases, Pawlenty said, would “be good for the environment, good for rural economies, good for national security and good for consumers.” He also calls for a regional cap and trade program.

May 2007: Pawlenty signs the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007, requiring the state to reduce its emissions 15 percent by 2015 and 80 percent in 2050. At the signing ceremony, Pawlenty said Minnesota was “kicking-starting the future” by “tackling greenhouse gas emissions.”

Oct. 2007: Pawlenty declares that the climate change issue is “one of the most important of our time.” He also brushes off “some flak” from right-wingers who doubt climate change science.

Sept. 2008: During the election, Pawlenty backs away from his own cap and trade program, says such a system would “wreck the economy.” He then tells hate radio personality Glenn Beck (a climate change denier) that human activity only contributes “half a percent” to climate change.

Nov. 2009: Pawlenty backs away from acknowledging that any human activity is the cause of climate change.

Posted by: drindl | November 17, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

The threat to the Democrats in the White House is the decision to hang on to Wall Street charlatans after the immediate danger of further big bank collapses had passed.

By appointment to the White House, the arbitrageur of the american economy, Goldmine Stacks. Today we see the Fed trying to tamp down the value of the American stock market (even though equity market valuations are not their thing, supposedly). It is not "excessively overvalued" they say, a milder form of calling out "irrational exuberance". So is there a bubble? If there is, no sustainable jobs will be created and Republicans will benefit. Now that both parties use the same investment bank as fiscal policy directors, "social values" may emerge as the only difference.

Posted by: shrink2 | November 17, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Actually, shrink, CC was specifically asked about that in last Friday's chat. And he noted that Brooks beat him to the story.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 17, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

shrink -- the Bubble is an echo chamber. The same trite CW just keeps echoing off the walls.

bsimon -- what you say is true, but there are new challenges that BushII did not face:

1] The gop base has moved waaaay further to the right.

2] Increasingly, every word that any candidate says, at any kind of venue, is now out there for all to see. George Allen and macaca demonstrated that. You can't take people's cell phones, or even know they have them and everyone knows utube.

The combination of those two things means that the way candidates used to play it, say one thing to one group, and something else to the other, won't work anymore.

Several once-moderate candidates who embraced mainstream science, for instance, are now walking back from that and talking creationism and denying global warming, and various other positions which will hurt them with sane people.

Posted by: drindl | November 17, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

How many of you rightwingers does the WaPo have in its stable?

Anyway, Thune is very, very well known, fyi, he's just been laying low? He's pure, classic Republican in every way; to the manner/manor born.

If he became president and the rightwing- beltway-establishment took over the govt again, they would set back American Society 100 years. One thing is for sure, he would appoint the most conservative judges, we would be permanently ensconced in Iraq and Afghanistan for all time and the evangelicals would rise again.
What a nightmare his presidency would be!

Posted by: Minka | November 17, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Talk about a slow day for the Republican Rising! One "paper" covers another's three day old piece (who here doesn't read the Times' political columns?) and comes to the same conclusion.

Posted by: shrink2 | November 17, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

For the GOP to be successful in 2012, they have to find a candidate who can follow the Bush 43 model - they have to appease the two core groups of the base (social cons & CfG cons) while appearing moderate and somewhat bipartisan to the independant vote ("I'm a compassionate conservative; uniter not a divider"). A guy like Pawlenty describes himself as moderate while governing as a conservative. Thanks to help from third-party candidates & poor DFL opponents, Pawlenty won twice in Minnesota. But its not clear he can both convince the Repub bases he's a legitimate conservative without alienating the moderates he'd need to win the general. Thune may be better positioned to pull that off.

Posted by: bsimon1 | November 17, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

mark is right, margaret. they moved there because these two states have the weakest consumer protections.

This photo of Thune is chilling. It looks like a scene from a gothic movie where thune, the demon, is about to cause an innocent to burst into flames.

When you know more about Thune's radical rightwing views and pro-concealed weapons and ant-woman positions, you can see how apt it is.

Posted by: drindl | November 17, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Margaret, in 1979 virtually all major credit card providers moved their home offices to either DE or...

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 17, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

If he's that nice, reasonable, and competent, it will be a real shame watching him veer into right-wing insanity to lock up the base, a la Pawlenty, Romney, Giuliani, McCain, etc -- all those nice, reasonable, competent guys who wind up sounding like John Birchers by the end of the primary season.

Posted by: nodebris | November 17, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Thune's problems are also very blatant too. He can talk all he wants about stopping TARP but he has no power in the senate and therefore can't actually do anything about it.
He hales from one of the least populated states in the Union and therefore has never had to really campaign on a national scale. The questions that commentators ask senators are very different than the ones they ask candidates for president.

Also How does he seperate himself from Romney, or Palin, or Pawlenty? All of which have much larger core bases. Plus he is a career politician and can not grab the label of outsider in any way shape or form. Therefore, 2012 is out and he knows it. I would expect Thune to make his move after whomever runs in 2012 gets blown out of the water by Obama. He will then try and emerge as the saviour of the party. He just needs to keep his head down and hope that his votes don't come back to haunt him 7 years from now.

Posted by: AndyR3 | November 17, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

He sure can raise money. I didn't think there was that much cash floating around SD.

Oh, the money doesn't come from SD? It comes flooding in from outside? Then Nate Silver's rule holds true: groups and business like to donate to Senators and Congressmen from low-population states because they are more easily (more cheaply) influenced.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | November 17, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

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