The Next Republican Candidate

South Dakota Senator John Thune may be charming and attractive but he currently lacks presidential vision.

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 United States 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.


  1. The GOP tryed a moderate candidate, remeber McCain? Time to get back to real conservatism. Not Romney care and gay marraige. Huckabee 2012 will do just fine, besides the last poll showed Huckabee the only republican that comes close to beating Obama. or for more on our next president.

  2. It’s a mistake to interpret McCain’s loss as a sign that moderate conservatism cannot win an election. No Republican could have won the presidency in 2008, not after eight years of George W. Bush.

  3. A republican candidate faces a hard choice of trying to please the religiously conservative republicans while at the same time trying to bring in the more Reaganistic conservatives and the midrange swingvoters. Last election they tried to bring forward a more moderate presidential candidate combined with a more value conservative VP. Whether that was an unworkable solution or simply unworkable then at the convergence of the Obama effect and the George W. Bush effect is anyones guess.

    I highly doubt that Huckabee can mobilize the more mopderate groups.

  4. The Republicans right now are in danger of making a mistake that a lot of parties make after a serious electoral defeat: taking refuge in their fanatical, hardcore supporters. The Labour Party did this between after 1979 and it cost them a decade of decreasing relevance. You can’t win an election by having voters that are more uniform than the others…

  5. Exactly. Moving even further to the right isn’t going to help the Republicans win an election. As I write before the only reason the Republicans appear strong in the polls now is because of fierce anti-Obama and anti-Democrats rhetoric. That is not enough to unite the party and win the presidency back however.

  6. Actually, there is little substantive difference between moderate Republicans and Conservatives that cannot be bridged with creative solutions. To wit:

    A bully pulpit pro-life agenda to promote alternatives to abortion while preaching respect and tolerance for current law – while encouraging abortion opponents to work for long term change through local channels. Socially conservative Supreme Court appointments while delegating responsibility for creating test cases to the States.

    Give illegal aliens the choice to return to their country of origin and go through proper channels to return to this country OR provide for a significant registration fee (say, $1000/person) to allow illegal aliens to register – without leaving – for an ID which would include fingerprinting and DNA samples. Insist on legislation that would declare children of illegal aliens – born in this country – to be non-citizens. Allow registered legal aliens to apply for driver’s licenses and purchase private health insurance, while excluding them from unemployment compensation or other government entitlement programs.

    Separation of Church and State
    Encourage federal, state, and local governments to allow celebration of religious holidays – regardless of religion – on public property. Atheism would be excluded since it is not a religion per se and does not have a holiday. However, expressing atheist beliefs would be protected by the 1st Amendment. Encourage state and local governments to allow moments of reflection in schools at the beginning of the school day whereby people of any religion (or atheists) can either offer private, silent prayers or engage in self-reflection. However, at no time should such a moment of reflection be allowed to encompass groups of people where such groups could constitute coercion to other students to join in.

    Same Sex Marriage
    Support a definition of marriage as being between a man and woman while providing the same legal benefits to homosexuals via civil union or other entitled legislation.

    Health Care Reform
    Support the current House Republican legislation as an alternative to Obamacare. Insist on incremental reform with expanded competition by allowing insurance companies to compete across state lines while removing insurance companies’ anti-trust exemptions.

    Economic Policy
    Insist on free market solutions while limiting government spending to prior year tax revenues. Overhaul and simplify tax laws while implementing consumption-based taxes. Bolster bankruptcy legislation to provide a more orderly and robust solution for handling banks and companies labeled “too big to fail” without having to resort to public bailouts. Instead of passing reams of new economic controls and legislation, insist on developing committees to review EXISTING legislation in order to revise and improve it. MORE regulation is not a substitute for BETTER regulation.

    Energy Policy
    Insist on objective, transparent, and independent climate research while
    encouraging alternative energy developments through tax incentives. The intent is not to adhere to wild claims of global warming alarmists but to reduce wealth transfer to oil rich foreign governments while working towards a cleaner environment for pragmatic health reasons and economic viability/sustainability. At the same time, expand drilling for domestic oil and gas while establishing independent drilling license panels comprised of industry experts and responsible environmentalists. Support funding of major infrastructure projects such as regional maglev trains to reduce overburdened airspace while providing tax incentives for companies who implement creative alternative energy solutions.

    Foreign Policy
    Clearly identify objectives in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and then provide appropriate levels of support to achieve those objectives as quickly as possible. Establish a clear and transparent set of criteria to justify graduated foreign intervention at multiple levels – from economic sanctions to military involvement. Provide and clarify such criteria to allies and countries involved in disputes. Make no exceptions to the policy.

    Work towards forming a symbiotic partnership – as was accomplished in Colombia – between the U.S. and countries with terrorists. Rather than invade a country, seek to coordinate actions between the target country’s police and military forces and U.S. Special Forces to root out terrorists.

    Homeland Security
    Insist on developing technological, policy, and manpower solutions to monitor and control U.S. borders. Merge the Border Patrol and Coast Guard with elements of the National Guard to form a Border Guard force to eliminate redundancy and streamline command and control. Insist upon bolstering U.S. borders before engaging in poorly-defined foreign intervention. Bolster missile defense systems and re-engineer our armed forces for defensive purposes rather than for outdated offensive capability.

    There are plenty of other areas of concern. But it is my contention moderate Republicans and Conservatives are a lot more willing to compromise when pragmatic and thoughtful solutions are proposed. It is the idealogue lemmings of the left who insist on compliance with their agenda.

    Just a thought!

  7. Some pretty smart thoughts, if I may say so, but I’m afraid that the GOP is too divided these days to embrace all of those compromises. For one thing, same-sex marriage, abortion and the issue of religion in general is very dear to the Religious Right and I doubt they’re willing to compromise on the matter for the sake of pleasing Business Conservatives and Libertarians.

    On economic policy, I agree that more regulation isn’t necessarily better regulation; to the contrary, more regulation only further hampers the free market. That’s why I’m in favor of hardly any regulation at all. I don’t believe any company is “too big to fail”. Left to its own devices, the market will be able to cushion any bankruptcy.

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