Thune Fever -- Catch It!

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To chime in with Jamelle's post on John Thune below ... You may recall that it was The Weekly Standard that delivered Sarah Palin unto the rest of the country, after a stopover on the magazine's 2007 fundraising cruise in which the Alaska governor charmed the pants off the likes of William Kristol and Fred Barnes. As Jane Mayer documented, "Fred Barnes recalled being 'struck by how smart Palin was, and how unusually confident. Maybe because she had been a beauty queen, and a star athlete, and succeeded at almost everything she had done.' It didn’t escape his notice, too, that she was 'exceptionally pretty.'" He and Kristol, along with other conservative literati, came back from the north and began telling everyone they could about how terrific Palin was; Barnes wrote the first major article about her that July, and a year later, she was the GOP nominee for vice president.

Now the horse the Standard wants to tell us about is South Dakota Sen. John Thune, who gets a profile featured on the magazine's cover. Let's take a look:

John Thune is likely to run for president in 2012. If he wins the nomination, it will be because he is an exceptionally skilled retail politician who can communicate a kind of midwestern, common sense conservatism that is ascendant in reaction to liberal profligacy. It will be because of skills and values he learned in Murdo.

It also helps that he’s cultivated the nationwide donor base that gave him $14.5 million to defeat Tom Daschle in 2004. And that South Dakota borders Iowa. And that he’s good on television. And that he’s a devout Christian who can quote Scripture without seeming to proselytize.

Ah yes, nothing warms the heart like a Washington-based publication, as deeply enmeshed in the establishment as it could possibly be, extolling the values of the small town -- population a mere 679, so you know they're real Americans.

So why, exactly, should John Thune possibly be the leader of the free world? He hasn't accomplished anything particularly noteworthy, and he doesn't have any area of policy expertise. But his jaw is square. Really square. Almost freakishly square. The Weekly Standard article talks about the role looks play in Thune's appeal, with lots of people agreeing that he "looks like a president." To me, he looks more like a soap-opera actor (Dr. Drake Manly, whose good looks hide a terrible secret!), but maybe I'm wrong. One interesting thing about Thune is that for much of his professional life, he's worked for -- say it with the appropriate sneer -- the government. He was a Capitol Hill staffer, an official in the Reagan administration, and an official in the South Dakota government. I happen to think that's perfectly fine, but as any good Republican knows, if you haven't run a hardware store or at least been a sports reporter for a small-market local TV station, then you can't possibly be in touch with regular folks.

I'll make a prediction: Thune, who by all accounts is a pretty smart guy, will sit 2012 out. He'll watch while Mitt Romney or somebody gets beaten by Barack Obama, then be all ready for 2016.

-- Paul Waldman

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