Skip to comments.Thune is ready for run against Daschle in 2004
Posted on 04/08/2003 12:31:57 PM PDT by LdSentinal
After months weighing another Senate bid after his narrow loss to Democrat Tim Johnson of South Dakota last year, former Rep. John Thune apparently has decided to take on Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004.
As some key South Dakota GOP figures see it, Daschle's comments last month blaming President Bush for mishandling the war in Iraq, hours before America launched a military strike against Iraq, may have created an opening for Thune.
In light of Daschle critical remarks, next year's South Dakota Senate race could emerge as closely watched referendum on Bush's foreign policy, especially in the Middle East.
The Sioux Falls Republican, who lost to Johnson by only 524 votes, recently took a lobbying job in Washington with the high-powered law firm of Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn. And he has started an issue-advocacy group, South Dakotans for Responsible Government, that gives him a platform to speak in his home state.
In a telephone interview Monday, Thune left open the door to a Senate run but did not commit himself.
"I can't tell you I have a timeline," Thune said. "I'm busy doing other stuff right now and obviously still have an interest in public life, but have not made any decisions. There's a lot of speculation, some here and quite a bit back home, and there's a lot of encouragement out there, but I'm just not ready."
Thune said Daschle's comments attacking the president's pre-war diplomacy were a "very serious miscalculation."
"There's probably nothing that I've seen at a grass-roots level that's got people as worked up as that has," he added. "Whether that's a short-term thing or has staying power remains to be seen."
But some key GOP operatives in Washington are convinced Thune is ready to take the plunge.
Other Republicans said the issue-advocacy group is a clear sign of Thune's intention to challenge Daschle, who is one of the Jackrabbit State's most popular politicians.
"The primary reason is to have an organization in place, to test the waters, and if they look good, to launch a candidacy," said former state Sen. Kermit Staggers, a Republican.
Vance Goldammer, a board member of South Dakotans for Responsible Government, said the Democrats' main argument -- that voting for Thune means voting against a Democratic Senate and a majority leader from South Dakotan -- is no long valid.
"They had all their eggs in that basket," Goldammer said. "Fifteen, twenty thousand Republicans crossed over." The Republicans" one-vote edge has changed all that, he added.
Goldammer further maintained that since Democrats are unlikely to recapture the Senate in 2004 -- 19 Democratic seats are up for grabs, many in Bush-friendly states, versus only 15 Republican ones -- the majority-leadership won't be much of an issue.
South Dakota GOP Chairman Randy Frederick said that Daschle's March 17 remarks, in which he said he was "saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war," has prompted a large field of Republicans to consider challenging the three-term senator, who was elected in 1986 after eight years in the House.
But GOP officials in Washington made it clear they're behind Thune, who was personally urged to run against Johnson by Bush and Vice President Cheney.
"Thune gets first choice," a National Republican Senatorial Committee official said. "Everybody's waiting to see what Thune's position is before they look to another candidate."
Another former Thune campaign official remarked that the South Dakotan and the president, who strongly backed Thune in 2002, have "had some conversations" since his November defeat.
Freshman Rep. Bill Janklow, a former governor and another possible GOP candidate frequently cited by Republicans, is saying little about the race. "He's so focused on his congressional job that he is not contemplating anything else at this time," said Janklow's press secretary, Lee Cohen.
Republican state Sen. Kenneth Albers, who represents the southeastern corner of the state, including Sioux Falls, cast further doubt on a Janklow candidacy, noting that Janklow and Daschle are longtime friends.
Former state Sen. Staggers said friendship is unlikely to get in the way of Janklow's running for the U.S. Senate, but he did say health problems could hinder the 63-year-old congressman. "I was surprised that he ran for the U.S. Congress," Staggers said.
Janklow underwent pancreatic surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in June 1999; doctors removed his spleen and an inflamed section of his pancreas. As a result of the surgery, Janklow developed diabetes.
Some Democrats question the president's unwavering support of Thune.
"Tom Daschle has always polled ahead of Tim Johnson by 4 to 8 percentage points," Daschle's campaign manager, Steve Hildebrand, said. "So if John Thune as an incredibly popular young congressman didn't beat Tim Johnson, why do they think that John Thune . . . [can] defeat Tom Daschle?
"I'm not saying this is going to be an easier race for Tom Daschle, but it's going to be a lot [harder] for Thune."
Hildebrand added that Republicans tend to blur political reality.
"Republicans always want to talk about how Bush got 60 percent of the vote here and how Tom Daschle and Tim Johnson don't deserve to represent South Dakota because South Dakota is such a heavily Republican state. What they fail to point out is that Tom Daschle received a higher percentage in his last two elections than Bush did."
Most political observers agree that next year's race will be decided in the Sioux Falls metropolitan area, with a population of some 150,000 out of a state total of nearly 755,000 -- rather than in the sparsely populated western half of the state, with its ranches and old West feel, where voters traditionally support conservative, small-government candidates.
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Oh I forgot..President Bush is from South Dakota..
Maybe its because he led tommy by a couple points in a recent poll.
He's definitely the gentleman in the race and he's already proven himself in the House.
Most political observers agree that next year's race will be decided in the Sioux Falls metropolitan area...
The last race was decided by voter fraud from the reservations. What makes them think this will be any different?
If Thune is going to run, he'd better start now and play hardball. That's the only way this will be an honest election. So far, Thune, the SD Republican Party, and the NRC have not shown me they have the b*lls to do this.
On a brighter note, Daschle's got plenty of time to make more pronouncements. I can hardly wait. IMO, I think Daschle's got a chronic illness - he doesn't look healthy to me.
What's the latest on Thune versus Daschle?
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