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Sen. John Thune has quietly begun seeking the counsel of his closest Senate colleagues and an array of party operatives as he considers a bid for the White House in 2012.
“I’m having a lot of discussions with people whose opinions I value. You try and have as many data points as you can to make a decision like that,” the South Dakota Republican said in a brief interview with Roll Call on Tuesday. “I continue to visit with potential contributors and to visit with people both in my state and around the country.”
Thune acknowledged that his consultations are ongoing and extensive and have included a wide range of Republicans, including fellow Senators, political operatives with previous experience running GOP presidential campaigns, and a national network of financial contributors whose support he would need in order to wage a competitive presidential bid. Thune said he continues to view the prospect of running favorably, although his final decision could still be a few months off.
On the list of Republican Members whose advice Thune is seeking — if he hasn’t spoken with them already — are Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the GOP presidential nominee in 2008, and Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), who sought the party’s nomination in 1996 and 2000. Thune is personally close with GOP Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.) and Jim DeMint (S.C.), both conservative favorites, and could discuss the matter with them as well.
Thune was uncontested for re-election on Nov. 2, cruising to a second term six years after defeating then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D) in a dogfight. As a consequence of the money Thune raised to run his expensive 2004 campaign — and the “giant-killer” status he earned by winning — he quickly developed a national profile and was seen as a potential presidential candidate.
Now a member of the Senate Republican leadership as Policy Committee chairman, Thune is gauging his prospects in the GOP presidential primary and a general election against President Barack Obama. He is attempting to figure out through his consultations whether he has something unique to offer as a candidate, whether he can raise the necessary resources and whether he has a pathway to victory.
“It’s particularly helpful to talk to people who’ve been through it before or people who have good instincts about politics to start with. Those are both resources that I’ve relied on,” he said. “Some of my colleagues are good in terms of input that way as well as some of the people around town and around the country who’ve been through this.”