Despite GOP Encouragement, Thune (Still) Not Running for President

By Dschabner

Jun 21, 2011 7:18pm

ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports:

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., spent a good portion of the day denying that he is rethinking a bid for the Republican nomination for president.

And he wants everyone to know … for right now … he’s not running for president.

“I am where I am and my focus is on the United States Senate,” Thune said on Fox News Channel this evening.

Conservative commentator Bill Kristol told C-SPAN Monday that Thune is rethinking a presidential run, reenergizing the questions of whether Thune is really out of the race for good.

“He (Thune) was sort of the more establishment favorite of the senators,” Kristol said adding that he’s been told Thune is rethinking. “I think a lot of this depends if there is a huge vacuum. If Romney seems to fall through, if Pawlenty doesn’t take off, if neither Perry nor Bachmann seem like they’re getting majority support. There will be a big vacuum in September. Someone could get in. And Thune would like to do it.”

Thune admitted, though, that some in his party have recently been encouraging him to reconsider.

“I’ve had some encouragement to reconsider where I was when I announced that I won’t be running this time around,” Thune said, “And it may continue to happen. I think that’s partly based on the field as people dropped out of the race and people thought ‘well we need more people in there,' you know Thune took a pass but maybe he’d think about reconsidering.”

What about a vice presidential consideration if asked?

“You never say never,” Thune said. “But my view is there is plenty of work for me to do in the Senate. I like what I’m doing and I have not changed my position with regards to the issue in national office. I just think right now I just need to be focused on trying to get spending and debt under control and trying to get policies enacted that would create jobs in this country.”

Thune said that he is not sure that the Republican field is set yet and that he anticipates it will widen in the days and weeks to come.

“It sounds like that field may get bigger before it’s all said and done,” he said.

In February, as the Republican field was just starting to take shape, Thune announced that he would not be running for president, opting to stay in the “trenches” of the Senate, even though he had "received encouragement from family, friends, colleagues, and supporters from across South Dakota" to jump into the race.

"There is a battle to be waged over what kind of country we are going to leave our children and grandchildren and that battle is happening now in Washington, not two years from now," Thune said in February. "So at this time, I feel that I am best positioned to fight for America’s future here in the trenches of the United States Senate.”

But Kristol’s statement this week added fuel to the fire that Thune threw water on then.

Today –- in interviews with Fox, the Washington Post, and when cornered by reporters in the halls of the Capitol — Thune denied Kristol’s statements and said for right now at least he’s planted firmly in the Senate.

Thune, the current chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, entered the Senate in 2004, defeating Democratic Leader Tom Daschle.

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