Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota "is likely to run for president in 2012," according to Stephen F. Hayes' cover story in the upcoming issue of The Weekly Standard.
Hayes writes that Thune has "gamed out a 'pathway to get there,' calculated the amount of money it would take to be competitive in early primaries, and even thought about the timing of an announcement. He thinks his family would be on board."
"I'm taking a very full look at it," Thune told Hayes.
Thune, a relatively young (he's 49), telegenic senator, fell into Republicans' good favor when he ousted Democrat Tom Daschle in 2004. Thune's win marked the first time in 50 years that a challenger had defeated a sitting Senate Majority or Minority Leader.
Thune's supporters say he possesses many characteristics that make him prime presidential material: he hails from the midwest, near the key presidential primary state of Iowa; he is regarded as a mainstream conservative; he entered the Senate with a strong national donor base; and Thune is an effective politician.
Hayes called Thune "an exceptionally skilled retail politician who can communicate a kind of midwestern, common sense conservatism that is ascendant in reaction to liberal profligacy."
Thune also enjoys the double-edged sword of being new on the national political scene: while he has a relatively thin record of legislative accomplishments in the Senate, he also has fewer controversial votes and positions than more experienced figures.
Current Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has already offered Thune his seal of approval. "I think he's the complete package and is the kind of person who could conceivably go the distance in a race for the presidency," McConnell told Hayes. "I think he's an extraordinary talent, and I hope that he will run and win."
Democrats failed to field a challenger this year against Thune. Still, he's been an active fundraiser, raising more than $14 million since he entered Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
(Photo: AP/Harry Hamburg)