John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Thune

Posted on July 28, 2010

Potential Republican Presidential candidate, John Thune



I ran into Congressman Jimmy Duncan in the hall of the Capitol and we had a little chat.

Duncan is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet, a savvy politician who is completely honest and to the untrained eye, just an awe-shucks, country lawyer type of person.

Duncan has taken some tough votes in his career.  He votes against pretty much all spending bills and he voted against the Iraq War, votes that in hindsight look pretty smart.  He is an old-time conservative, but he isn’t one to beat his own chest or pontificate too much.

Anyway, I asked Mr. Duncan what he thought about the upcoming election, and he was upbeat.  He told me that he hasn’t seen this kind of excitement from the Republican base since 1994.  He said that each year he hosts a big event for his campaign in his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee.  He typically gets around 500 hundred to show up, but in 1994, Newt Gingrich drew 1200.

This year, he told me he invited John Thune.  And guess what?  Thune is expected to match Newt’s total from sixteen years ago.

John Thune is probably the only potential Republican Presidential candidate who can take President Obama in a basketball game of one-on-one.   I have played the round ball with the Senator from South Dakota, and believe me, he has skills.  He has a nice jump shot, he’s very athletic, he can jump and he can run like a gazelle.  I haven’t seen POTUS play up close, but just watching him on television, my guess is that Thune could take him pretty easily on the basketball court.

The question that many Republicans are asking today is:  Can Thune take Obama one-on-one in the political arena?

And the more GOPers look at the potential primary field, the better Thune looks.

Thune has some obvious attributes that help.  He is conservative in all the right places, but he isn’t so strident that he alienates the middle of the political spectrum.  He comes from small town America, his father was a World War II combat veteran, he is not in any way slick, and he has a down-to-earth quality that is genuine and sincere.

While he is a nice guy, he is also a fierce competitor who made a national name for himself by knocking off former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle six years ago.  He will always be a hero to many on the right for beating Mr. Daschle.

Some will question if Thune has the experience to run for President, but his experience at the House and Senate far exceeds that of both Mr. Obama, our current President, and Sarah Palin, who now looks to be the Republican front-runner.  He certainly is more trusted by the right than Mitt Romney, is less toxic to the middle than Mike Huckabee, has more charisma than Mitch Daniels, and has more star power than Haley Barbour.

I have written positively about Daniels and Barbour as potential candidates in the past, and I have not changed my opinion of either one of them.  I think both Mitch and Haley would make great Presidents, but I don’t get the clear sense that either one of them are willing to throw their hats in the ring quite yet.

I don’t know if Thune is ready to jump in yet either.  He still has to get re-elected this fall (which shouldn’t be much a problem for him), and then he has to convince his family that the time is right for him to upend their lives and make a run for the White House.

John Bresnahan wrote an interesting piece about Thune where he quoted Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, the Democratic National Committee Executive Director, as saying, “This is personal, but John Thune is somebody that I have nightmares about.  I have worked for Tim Johnson and Tom Daschle, and he is just a guy you can’t ever count out.  He has his head down and is doing some policy stuff.  (You’ve) just got to start looking at him.”

Well, obviously the folks in Knoxville, Tennessee have gotten the memo and they are lining up to start looking at him this August.