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Thune in Informal Talks About Moving Up in GOP Leadership

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With that nagging decision to forgo a presidential campaign out of the way, Sen. John Thune (S.D.) doesn’t appear to be in a hurry to launch an expected run for higher office within the Senate Republican leadership ranks.

The Republican Policy Committee chairman and fourth-ranking GOP Senator will likely vie for the No. 2 Whip or No. 3 Conference chairman positions for the 113th Congress, and Thune’s spokesman confirmed Monday that the Senator has been having conversations with his GOP colleagues about such a move. But Thune is moving slower and less formally than colleagues who are already in the running for leadership slots.

“Sen. Thune will continue to talk to his colleagues about how he might better serve the Conference,” Thune spokesman Kyle Downey said. “No decision has been made at this time. The Senator, like many of his colleagues, believes the focus should not be on leadership races, but on the business before the Senate.”

The jockeying was ignited by the announcement of Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) in mid-February that he would not run for re-election in 2012. Within hours of that revelation, Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) started phoning colleagues for support in the Whip race, while Sen. Mike Johanns (Neb.) announced that he would run for Conference chairman.

Thune was mulling a run for president at the time, but the South Dakota Republican announced Feb. 21 that he would not seek the GOP White House nomination, freeing him to focus on Senate GOP leadership politics. Since Kyl revealed his retirement plans, knowledgeable sources have suggested that Thune is more inclined to run for Conference chairman but that joining the two-man Whip race remains an option.

That scenario does not appear to have changed.

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