by Joe Shea
January 31, 2012
SEN. JOHN THUNE IS YOUR CANDIDATE, REPUBLICANS!
BRADENTON, Fla. -- I am sorry that today Florida voters must decide among a group of men - who are all imperfect - which should be the next President of the United States.
Anyone who has seen the video on our front page of former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney telling a voter "I am not a partisan Republican" and "I have some progressive views" know that his claim to the mantle of Ronald Reagan is false.
Newt Gingrich has neither the heart nor the integrity of Ronald Reagan.
Rep. Rick Santorum is a fine guy, but he's not remotely ready to run this nation.
And Ron Paul is of a political variety that does better in the shade and cannot survive bright light and the extreme logic of human circumstances.
Republicans really have no choice, and today they will make a critical one that one way or other will be wrong for many of them.
What a mess!
U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-SD), 51, the tall, smart, handsome U.S. Senator from South Dakota, an evangelical Protestant who is of Norwegian and Canadian descent, a high school basketball star who played in college, is still out there. He's not an extremist of any kind.
Thune is a conservative, and he is available to be the Presidential nominee of the Republican Party. Why, then, is the GOP suffering through an American Idol pageant of mediocrity when they have a real star just offstage?
We who suppport President Obama for re-election are thankful that Republicans are so myopic, but we don't rely on them to remain that way. Some billionaire will see Sen. Thune's obvious appeal and start a draft movement, or something.
Can he win elections? Well, in 2004, by just 4,500 votes, he defeated the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, Tom Daschle, after trailing by between 2% and 5% until the very last day.
The race was the most expensive for a Senate seat in U.S. history. Today, it would be almost impossible to imagine a more capable candidate, a harder-working one, or one better poised to step in and lead the Republican Party. In 2010, the Democrats didn't even run a candidate against him, so he ran unopposed and won.
I shouldn't wish him on Barack Obama, but there he is.
Last Fall, though, with many insiders in South Dakota - the country's most prosperous state - ready to back him in 2012, Thune said, "This didn't feel like the right time." Sen. John Kerry said almost the same thing when I started a draft committee for him in 1986; Democrats got Michael Dukakis instead, and Kerry learned the despair of a dream forever deferred.
What can make this outcome occur? The Big Four - Romney, Gingrich, Santorum and Paul - could get caught up in a scandal, be shot by a madman, could run out of money, could lose too many primaries, could misspeak, be misquoted, be exposed as crooked or depraved or any number of things that might unnerve, disgust, repel or betray Republican voters. Or a few billionaires just might decide Thune's worth a try, because they've only got four losers now, and 19 nationally televised debates - the American Idol show of politics - have demonstrated to the entire country all their many shortcomings - many times!
Sean Hannity told me in Orlando last Fall that he wasn't expecting surprises - the night before Herman Cain handily won the Florida Straw Poll. "I don't think there's going to be any big surprises in the debate," Hannity told me in a brief interview an hour before the Orlando debate began. "I liken it to American Idol, in that in each debate, there's going to be candidates who step up to the opportunity, and take a moment to really stand out and garner more support." But Thune may be the surprise - even the October Surprise - no one is expecting.
I don't really know much about Sen. Thune. My inspiration came from some vague mention of his name as a possible candidate about two months ago, and then a very short dream a month or so later in which I saw him emerging into the spotlight.
Looking further at him, I realized he is what the party has always been looking for - a young, tall, discerning, smart leader they can trust. And being the son of a Norwegian immigrant as well as a Westerner with a spotless past, I think he can be trusted.
The important thing to say to my former fellow Republicans is that all is not lost in having what you want. John Thune can be yours, but you'll have to go and get him. He won't read this article and suddenly announce he's in the race.
The logistics are near impossible to manage, especially the money, but he can claim the momentum and saunter into Tampa as a dark horse with a bright future. Fool that I am, I bet he will. And with Thune, the Republicans will luck out again.