Is John Thune Running for Reelection or the White House?

Official photograph of John Thune, U.S. Senator.

South Dakota Senator John Thune

Bookmark and Share  In 2004, John Thune ran for the United States Senate and defeated the U.S. Senate Minority Leader, Democrat Tom Daschle. It was his second run for the office. In 2002, he graciously conceded that election to incumbent Tim Johnson after Democrats involved themselves in a cash for votes scandal on South Dakota Indian reservations. Out of a total of 337,501 votes cast in that race, the illegally purchased votes helped to account for what was an ever so slight lead for Johnson of 524 votes or 0.15%. But two years later, Thune’s political campaigning turned those results around as he beat the powerful Senate Minority Leader. In that election, with 391,118 votes cast, 53,687 more votes than in 2002, Thune won a decisive plurality, besting Daschle by 4,508 votes or 51% of the vote.

Now, six years later, Thune is up for reelection and his opponent is no one.

After six years in the Senate and a conservative record that often receives a 100% ACU rating, Thune has become an impressive figure. And in a state where voters are far from trending Democrat during these Obama years, Democrats have failed to find anyone who is willing to oppose Thune andhave failed successfully  to urge anyone to even wage a token challenge to Thune,

That  lack of Democrat Party leadership and ideological strength has made it possible for Thune to be one of those rare candidates who can take time campaigning for others in not only his own state, but in other states as well. He most recently spent time in Arkansas campaigning and raising money in Arkansas for Republican senate candidate John Boozman who is running against politically wounded, incumbent Democrat, Blanche Lincoln.

But while John Thune’s own reelection remains uncontested, he is certainly not ignoring his place on the ballot this November. To date he has spent over $4.6 million in his opponentless race for reelection. Given the relatively small population of South Dakota and the fact that there is no real race, this is a pretty significant amount of money to spend, especially when you consider that there is still little more than 2 months to go till Election Day. So far, of the expected turnout, John Thune’s campaign expenditures it amounts to about $13.65 per voter.

Of course, this spending and out of state campaigning could be more for 2012 than 2010.

Thune could be actually trying to kill two birds with one stone as he uses his senate reeelction bid to  prepare for a run at the White House or for the number two spot on a Republican presidential ticket. The only hint that could contradict this conclusion is the level of activity in John Thune’s leadership PAC, the Heartland Values PAC. In this election cycle, the last reported total amount of contributions it has made to other candidates totals $185,500, a number which pales in comparison to other Republican presidential contenders like Palin, Romney and Pawlenty.

In general though, John Thune must be watched. Depending on who runs and the combination of those running in 2012, John Thune could be a very viable candidate for the Republican nomination and he is certainly playing his cards right. With relative youth providing some wind at his back, if he does not go for the nomination in 2012, his potential success at a run for the White House in in 2016 or 2020, could rely heavily on what he does in 2012 and how he handles the race.

 

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