No, No, No, John Thune is Not the Republican Obama

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 28 2010 3:24 PM

No, No, No, John Thune is Not the Republican Obama

Chris Cillizza (and to a much lesser extent Steve Hayes) gets this wrong about Sen. John Thune's (R-S.D.) presidential hopes.

Thune -- along with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- are the favored choices if the dominant belief within the Republicanparty is that the most important thing is to nominate someonestylistically similar to Obama -- someone with the bearing and look(don't underestimate how important it is to look "presidential") tocredibly stand with Obama on a debate stage.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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The alternative, of course, is to nominate the anti-Obama -- someonewho in resume, approach and look draws a purposeful contrast with thePresident.

Is it important to "look presidential"? The presidential primaries of years past are littered with the corpses of Connollys, Cranes, Edwardses, and other losers who "looked presidential." It is far, far, far more important to be able to prove to the base that you were on their side on the issue they care about most. And that is what Obama did, milking every drop out of his pro forma opposition to the Iraq War and using it to become the electable candidate of the Left against Hillary Clinton. Yes, there was a lot more at play in 2007/2008, but tell me how Hillary loses the primary if she had voted against the war, and tell me how Obama wins it if he had been a congressman in 2002 (a possibility, if he'd won a House race in 2000) and made a "smart" vote for the war.

John Thune voted for TARP. The Republican base hated TARP. The Republican base still hates TARP. The Republican base will hate TARP in 2012. Here is how Thune explained the vote when I asked him about it in May.

There was a tremendous, broad support in South Dakota among the smallbusiness community, the financial community, the South Dakota pensionfunds, the governor -- there was a tremendous amount of support at thetime for taking the steps that we took. I think a lot of people woulddispute or take issue with how it was used. But people felt like, eventhough many disagreed with it, we took the steps necessary to preventthe economy from a complete meltdown.

Can he finesse that answer by 2012? Of course. Will the Republican base that defenestrated Bob Inglis, Lisa Murkowski, and Bob Bennett over their votes for TARP put up with it? Well, they're likely to have a few other candidates who either opposed TARP (Mike Pence) or supported it but don't have votes on the record to attack (Sarah Palin). Why on earth would they support Thune? He is in exactly the opposite position with his base on a key issue that Obama was with his base on its key issue. He voted to hand your money to the big banks. How does he dig out of that?

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics