Jeb Bows Out, Thune Prepping While Santorum Heads to Iowa
by Charles Lemos, Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 11:31:58 PM EDT
Dubbed the "the candidate hiding in plain sight" and deemed by many especially among mainline conservatives and neo-conservatives as perhaps the best hope for the GOP to win back the White House, former two term Florida Governor Jeb Bush today quashed speculation that had been building in recent weeks that he was considering a presidential run in 2012.
The argument for Jeb Bush ran something like this: each of the other presumed front runners have obvious perhaps fatal flaws and thus only Jeb Bush can pull together the disparate threads of the GOP. Moreover, he has strong conservative credentials, is the only Republican ever to win two terms of the Sunshine state, has a political pedigree second to none even if tarnished by his older brother, can appeal to the all-important Hispanic population with his Mexican-born wife in tow, is perceived as less divisive on social issues who would thus appeal to independents, would do well in his home state that electoral vote rich battleground state that has often decided presidential elections and unlike older brother can speak in complete sentences.
Despite the growing speculation that he was at least considering a run in 2012, today when asked Louisville’s ABC affiliate WHAS following an event for Rand Paul if he was eying the White House, Jeb Bush was adamant. “I am not running for president,” he said.
Politico has more on Jeb Bush's denial of interest.
While Bush is dampening speculation, South Dakota Senator John Thune is fueling it. Seen as a mainstream conservative alternative to Romney and Pawlenty and beloved just for being the slayer of former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, Thune couples a sparse Senatorial record with universal admiration in conservative circles. He's the guy no one hates while Romney, Palin, Huckabee, Gingrich et al each have their conservative detractors.
Thune’s budget plan would create a joint House-Senate panel on cutting government spending, call for a line-item veto and mandate that 10 percent of the deficit be cut each year until it is eliminated.
As he tries to build up his policy credentials, Thune is also stepping up his political travel, headlining a Republican Party of Virginia event on Wednesday, to be followed by trips to Arkansas, California and Ohio on behalf of GOP Senate candidates. With Thune in heavy demand on the campaign circuit, more such trips are expected soon.
Thune’s political travel and his efforts to make a name for himself on budgetary matters has his Senate colleagues, both publicly and privately, offering encouragement if Thune decides to enter the 2012 presidential race. Never mind that his budget ideas will never see the light of day in a Democratic Senate — they help raise Thune’s policy profile within the Republican Party.
“I think he’d make a great candidate,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “The party would be well served by having someone like him.”
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Thune “has all the qualities [for president].”
“John’s future is in his own hands,” Cornyn added. “It depends on what he wants to do.”
Meanwhile, CNN reports that former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has held private meetings with former members of his staff to discuss a presidential run. John Brabender, an adviser to the former Senator, confirmed to CNN that Santorum is "actively considering [a presidential bid] by traveling to early primary states and talking with conservative leaders.” In that light, the Iowa Independent reported on Monday that Santorum, who hails from social conservative wing of the GOP, would headline a fundraiser for GOP Attorney General candidate Brenna Findley in Sioux Center on August 17th. The visit will be Santorum's fifth to the state in the past year.