South Dakota Senator John Thune
Born: January 7,1961(age 49), Murdo, South Dakota
Spouse(s): Kimberly Thune
Children : Brittany and Larissa
Residence : Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Alma mater: Biola University
Religion: Evangelical Christian
Political Career :
- Served as a legislative assistant for U.S. Senator Abdnor.
- Worked for the Small Business Administration.
- Was appointed Railroad Director of South Dakota by Governor George S. Mickelson and served from 1991 to 1993.
- From 1993 and 1996, he worked as a member of the South Dakota Municipal League.
- In 1996, Thune was elected to South Dakota’s at-large seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He won reelection in 1998 and in 2000 was reelected with over 70% of the vote. Thune supported term limits and promised to serve no more than three terms in the House.
- Keeping his pledge, Thune instead ran for the United States Senate, challenging Senator Tim Johnson in 2002. Democrat ran scandal which saw Party officials pay for on Indian reservations placed the results of the election in doubt. But Thune decided not to mount a legal challenge by filing any objectionsand acceptinga questionable and close loss by 524 votes (0.15%).
- Between 2002 and 2004 Thune worked as a lobbyist for the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad.
- In 2004, he again ran for the Senate, this time challenging incumbent Tom Daschle, at the time the United States Senate Minority Leader and leader of the Senate Democrats. It is rare for for the Party’s legislative leaders to lose an election but after overcoming Daschle’s early 7 point lead, ThunedefeatedDaschle by 4,508 votes.
Populist social conservatives will find John Thune to be a dream candidate. He currently has a rating of 100% by the American Conservative Union and describes his religious faith as the most important factor in his political pursuits.
Thune is very much a Reaganite and he consistently seeks a return to bedrock conservative principles that limit the size and cost of government and strengthens national security. And in Thune’s case, these are not just talking points. While serving as the Deputy Minority Whip, he is also the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee. That is because in many ways, on those conservative issues he feels most strongly about, Thune is a policy wonk and he knows his stuff.
One specific area of expertise and leadership that Thune can make claim to is energy, an issue that will likely remain to be hot in 2012 and beyond. Early on in his first term in the senate, Thune led in process to formulate energy policy. He tirelessly worked for final passage of a comprehensive energy bill, which overcame a number of Democratic filibusters and passed the Senate in 2005. He helped pass another energy bill in late 2007.
Compared to other potential candidates Thune’s resume may be light but his relatively young age has a lot to do with that. But what he may lack in political accomplishments is made up for in his abilities and potential.
Thune currently serves as the Republican Deputy Whip in the senate. That position requires the skills to be both persuasive and forceful, two things that John Thune has. He is comfortable working behind the scenes and is not prone to grandstanding. For him success comes by achieving the passage of legislation which he believes in and self promotion has no part in that.
At the moment, there is quite an insiders buzz building about a potential John Thune candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. Unlike usual buzz, John Thune is not creating it. He isn’t discouraging it either. Right now his focus is on reelection to the U.S. Senate this November. But Thune is a shoo-in in South Dakota so while there is really not much suspense in the results of his upcoming election, there is some suspense in how well he will do. If he can produce a landslide victory, the existing buzz about his presidential future will only intensify and can prove to be quite important in shaping a Thune presidential candidacy.
Writer Mark Halperin has described that buzz as a part of what he calls the Invisible Primary. According to Halperin the Invisible Primary is the jockeying for supremacy in the contests to be positioned to be the major party presidential nominees between now and start of the actual caucus and primary voting. So far, in this invisible primary, John Thune is doing well and if he decides to run, he will be well placed at the starting line.
With no bragging rights to statehouse executive leadership experience, Thune could be at a disadvantage in a crowded field of former and incumbent governors. But as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, Thune will likely be able to demonstrate substantial gravitas on many of the most important issues of the day, such as the Troubled Asset Relief Program which he as been a leading and vocal opponent of. And with extensive breadth of knowledge on energy, spending and debt issues, John Thune could surprise his fellow Republican opponents and voters with his masterful handling of those issues issues that will be key in 2012
So Senator Thune definitely has some strong political terra firma to stand on. Until now, he has not been in any bright national spotlight. But if that light does shine on him, what most Americans will see, will to them be a fresh, relatively young, face who is confident, well spoken, and knowledgeable.
As for other important considerations, while Mitt Romney will likely have everyone catching up to him in the area of fundraising, John Thune already has a national fundraising network in place. It’s a network that came with the fame found from toppling the Democrat’s leader of the Senate in 2004.
Another important factor for a national contest is establishinga group of experienced political hands to guide the candidate. Thune has already has that in place with his re-election campaign manager Justin Brasell, pollster Glen Bolger, media consultant Scott Howell, chief of staff Matt Zabel, communications director Kyle Downey, longtime South Dakota strategist Ryan Nelson and Doug Schwartz, the deputy staff director at the Republican Policy Committee.
In the end, John Thune can actually become a top tier contender fort the Republican nomination. As a popular figure from a state that neighbors Iowa, he will have a leg up in the first presidential caucus as he runs in what will essentially be home turf. And with youth, good looks, legislative experience, command of the issues, money, a high-end group of staff and political operatives and a solid conservative record of which he can motivate the base of the Party, if he wants to run, Thune will not be easily pushed aside. And if he doesn’t run for President in 2012, he will certainly be on the Vice Presidential shortlist of whoever the nominee is.
The greatest challenge to Thune would come not in the primaries for the nomination but in the race for President. If he did actually become the nominee, Thune’s almost perfect conservative record be torn apart by Democratic opposition researchers and he will have to spend a great deal of time trying to prove that he is not an dangerous right wing extremist.
Ultimately, when trying to project who will rise to the surface in the run up to the 2012 election, for every reason imaginable, John Thune must be factored in. As it stands right now, the only thing in his way of a real run for the presidency is his willingness to make the decision to go for it.