Thune’s 2012 Teaser: ‘We Need to be in the Arena’

By Dschabner

May 11, 2010 9:40pm

ABC News’ David Chalian reoprts: Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., didn’t have to hop a flight to Iowa or New Hampshire to show a little leg regarding his interest in a possible run for the White House in 2012. Just a few miles from his Capitol Hill office, Thune was working a hotel ballroom full of Republican Party state chairmen gathered in National Harbor, Md., for an annual Republican National Committee meeting. As the featured speaker at the conference dinner, Thune offered a message of simplicity in what may be seen as his original 2012 stump speech should he choose to take the plunge. “As I look at the challenges we face in America today, there are no easy answers, but there are simple answers,” Thune said in his soft-spoken and understated manner. The simple answers, Thune argues, come from a return to four core conservative principles: personal freedom, personal responsibility, fiscal responsibility and peace through strength. Thune had avoided any demonstration of national political ambition for much of the last year despite many Republicans always keeping his name on the list of potential 2012 candidates to watch. The filing deadline passed at the end of March and Thune drew no Democratic opposition for his reelection effort to the Senate in November.  With no competition at home and with $6.5 million in his campaign account, Thune has clearly decided to step up his national profile. Thune painted the image of a train wreck and argued the country is on a current collision course if change does not come in November. “There is a fear and it’s a palpable fear almost, that this enormous burden of debt that we have as a nation is going to bankrupt us and strangle us,” he said.  He called for a balanced budget amendment in what was one of the only applause lines in his 20-minute speech. Though he didn’t mention Barack Obama by name, Thune offered a critique of one of Obama’s central campaign themes.  “I don’t think they thought the change they were bargaining for was going to lead to the massive government expansion in Washington, D.C.” Thune concluded his remarks by talking about the importance of being “in the arena and in the race.”  He said the country finds itself at a crossroads and the “stakes could not be higher and the consequences could not be greater.” When asked if his comments about getting “in the arena” were a reference to his possible 2012 White House run, a grinning Thune said he wasn’t speaking personally, but instead encouraging others to get engaged in the 2010 elections. ABC News’ Teddy Davis contributed to this report.

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