This week, we learned that Senator John Thune has been in talks with Beth Myers, the head of Romney’s running mate search team, in Boston. He was also part of that rockstar weekend in Utah, where many Veepstakes contenders gathered for some fundraising and R&R.
1. His maternal grandfather came from Ontario, Canada and his paternal grandfather immigrated from Norway.
2. He grew up in Murdo, S.D. (population: 612) as the son of a WWII Naval war hero and teacher. His family owned a local hardware store. Thune says his modest prairie background has given him a preference for small companies and local government.
3. Thune first became interested in politics at a high school basketball game. He had played stellar, making five of six free-throw attempts. Republican Rep Jim Abdnor was one of the spectators in the stands that day. He approached Thune and remarked, “You missed one” — a meeting which sparked an interest in politics, Thune says.
4. He whooped U.S. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle in the 2004 South Dakota Senate race with 50.6 % of the vote. You can call that “payback.” (During the 1980s, Thune had worked as a legislative assistant for Abdnor, who lost his senate seat to Daschle in 1986.) People are still talking about “the big upset.”
5. People totally dig Thune in the Midwest. Iowa’s senior Senator Chuck Grassley (R) explained, “He’s got a good following, particularly in the conservative part of Iowa, the western third. He did a lot of work in the caucuses for Romney. If Iowa is a battleground state and Wisconsin is in play, he’d be a good candidate. He makes a good presentation.” (We should also probably mention he’s a huge Green Bay Packers fan.)
6. His favorite bands are Styx, Journey, Boston and The Doobie Brothers.
7. He’s a “reformed ear-marker.” Yes, he supported the Wall Street bailout in 2008 and has defended the earmarking tradition, but he supports current bans on spending projects. “Up until recent years that was the way in which you, through the appropriations process, made sure your state’s interests were addressed,” he confessed.
8. Thune — a favorite among Evangelicals and Conservatives — has been helping Romney avoid policy battles with conservatives in Congress since the Iowa Caucuses. A pet project of his has been to document the decline of America since Obama’s been in office — publishing Senate GOP Committee reports on rises in unemployment, gas prices, tuition and food stamps, as well as drops in home values, income and competitiveness.
9. He describes himself as “serious, thoughtful and deliberative.” South Dakota Democratic Party Executive Director Ben Nesselhuf explains that “compromise” can be a dirty word in Washington and adds that Thune “doesn’t reach across the aisle; he’s Republican to the bone.” Thune himself indicates that he’s “not somebody whose disposition and temperament is hostile.” He quickly adds, “But once somebody throws the first punch, I’m all in.”
10. The tanned, 6’4″ tall Senator ranked #9 in The Hill’s 2005 “Most Beautiful People” list.