President Obama has hardly completed his first year in office or speculation about which Republican will run against him in 2012 has surfaced already. With leftovers from the last election as Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin probably too right wing and therefore unelectable, Mitt Romney remains the most high profile of potential candidates. Another name is being tossed around Washington however: the name of John Thune, the 48-year old junior senator from South Dakota whose staunchly conservative views and youthfulness might well lure Republicans into electing their own version of Barack Obama.
Some media have been quick to pick up on the news. The New York Times described him as charming while Politics Daily is positively smitten with the man. He is “handsome”, “passionate” and “has gone out of his way to bolster his conservative bona fides,” we learn. For example, Thune called his faith his “anchor” and joined the effort to amend the US Constitution with a ban on same-sex marriage. He supported the invasion of Iraq as a war of liberation — to bring religious freedom to the country would “open the door, obviously, for the Christian faith there as well,” he said. The Republican base might like to hear things like this, but how will he speak to moderates?
On his website, the senator does some more Republican smoothtalking by defending the Second Amendment right to own and bear arms while writing that “government has a duty to promote and protect the family” and pledging to “continue to fight for the life of the unborn,” meaning: abortion is a no-go unless the mother’s life is threatened.
On the other hand, he talks about the need to protect the environment, promote sustainable energy and reform health care — positions that independent voters might find appealing.
On some of the most important issues that an American president must deal with — the economy, homeland security and foreign policy — Thune volunteers no more than slogans however. “America must have a strong military,” he says. We must reduce the tax burden to promote growth. “Our tax dollars should be spent wisely” and law enforcement officials should have “the tools they need to fight the War on Terror.”
Since Thune isn’t a candidate for the presidency yet, it would perhaps be unfair to demand that he elaborates on these position. Right now though, it’s all the Republican talking points that no one can really disagree with — who doesn’t want America to have a “strong military”? and who doesn’t think that “tax dollars should be spent wisely”? — lacking a vision that anyone contesting Barack Obama in 2012 must be able to display.