Thursday, November 24, 2011

What Did Thune Get For His Endorsement?

John Thune, South Dakota's conservative poster boy, recently endorsed Mitt Romney, the Republican conservatives love to hate.  South Dakota War College posts videos of the endorsement and Fox News commentary.  Neither the post nor the commentary ask what should be the obvious question, why would a rising conservative star risk his standing with conservatives to endorse Romney whose poll numbers never seem to top 25%?  George Will even contends that Romney is a Republican Dukakis.

Perhaps I'm a perpetual cynic, but no politician does something for nothing, so I'm left with the question:  What did Thune gain for risking his status as a conservative's conservative?

One option is a cabinet spot such as Agriculture or Interior, but those spots seem like a step down for a "rising star."  I don't think Thune has the chops for Defense or State, so the most logical bet is that Romney offered to consider him for Veep, but Thune brings only 3 electoral votes, and I think Romney would prefer to get someone who can help him win Ohio, Pennsylvania or Florida.

On the surface, it looks as if Thune is putting a lot on the line.  Unless there was some sort of quid pro quo, this endorsement seems to be a huge gamble with little potential reward.


caheidelberger said...

Interesting. Maybe this is a Bush-Cheney deal. Bush picked Cheney even though Cheney brought similarly low electoral heft with Wyoming's 3 votes. Bush felt bolstering his conservative cred was more important than an open VP ploy for a big state.

Or Thune may just be the voice of the GOP establishment saying, "All right, numbskulls! Enough fun and games. Romney's the only guy with a chance of winning. Get behind him."

And is Thune really risking that much? His current job is safe for five more years. South Dakotans won't throw him overboard just for endorsing Romney. Backing the establishment candidate won't hurt his rise in the Senate establishment. I might portray his endorsement as just the opposite: little risk, significant potential reward.

LK said...


I agree with your first two paragraphs. and the first two sentences of your last paragraph.

I disagree with your analysis of the Senate. McConnell et al seem to have sold their political souls to sell red meat to baser elements of their base. If Romney does repeat the Dukakis loss, Thune will pay a price for being the first big name conservative to endorse a man most of the Right perceives as the epitome of a RINO.

Finally, I think Thune has the itch and wants the big prize. He needs the base; endorsing Romney means he will lose some of them. If Romney loses big and Thune is seen as the guy who helped him get the nomination, Thune loses with the base

larry kurtz said...

Marco Rubio did a face-plant with his embellishment of family history. Would Thune have to leave the Senate to run for a nearly predetermined obvious loss as Veep candidate?

LK said...

Thune is safe for 4 more years.

I think that a Romney loss will not hurt him; conservatives will blame Romney not the veep candidate whoever it may be.

Palin emerged with more political power than she had before being McCain's choice for veep. Thune should be able to avoid Palin's errors, so I'd guess he would be one of the front runners for 2016 if he's the veep for a losing 2012 candidate.

caheidelberger said...

Maybe Thune declines a VP spot, keeps his Senate job safe, but does a lot of touring and handshaking for Romney this year, using the experience to build his national network for 2016.

LK said...

I have no doubt that Thune will be using 2012 to build a network for 2016.

For all I know, the deal was the private phone numbers of all of Romney's donors.

I remain steadfast in my belief that there had to be a deal of some sort. Conservatives hold Romney anathama this cycle. I don't think Thune made the endorsement and risked their wrath without having something in hand.