Thune Soon?
At this still reasonably early point in the next presidential election cycle, candidate preference polling typically produces a rank ordering of the usual suspects – candidates who have already run in the previous presidential election and lost, and other political elites with longstanding visibility (and name recognition) in the party. So, in the race for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, most polls offer small variations on a list that includes Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich. These four politicians are usually the only ones in or close to double digits, with a few others like Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum much closer to zero.
At the same time, we often hear political observers say that the next primary cycle is more likely to be driven by someone who has not yet figured into the presidential polling mix. Two names that often arise when I talk informally with others are Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and South Dakota Senator John Thune. I’ll save a potential Daniels run for another post, but a new profile of John Thune by Mike Allen at suggests that the senator is indeed now ramping up for a presidential run in 2012. Thune’s entry into the race would certainly have the potential to change the current frontrunner dynamic, although it would no doubt take him some time to break into those ranks.
Almost a year ago I wrote a post about Thune called If the Suit Fits. The occasion was, not surprisingly, an earlier profile of the senator by Jonathan Martin at also raising the issue of a presidential bid. My argument in the post was that in many respects Thune is well-suited to go up against President Obama – in terms of his age, physical appearance, telegenic presence, policy experience, etc. Thune is essentially a white conservative evangelical version of Obama, and thus someone who could provide a very interesting counterpoint to his candidacy in a general election. It is of course still early, and the Politico piece notes that Thune has several obstacles to overcome in launching a bid. But he certainly has the potential to make the usual suspects a little uncomfortable.

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