Tags: GOP | Senators | Want | Thune | for | Election | Leadership

GOP Senators Want Thune for Election Leadership

Monday, 26 December 2005 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON - Freshman Sen. John Thune could be a member of his party's leadership as soon as next year.

Thune said Monday that several senators have approached him about becoming the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the party's campaign arm, for the 2008 campaign cycle. That would make him the top Republican working to defeat Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, who is up for re-election that year.

"It's something I will give consideration to," Thune said. "I want to be helpful as much as I can."

Republicans say he would be a good candidate for the job because he knows elections well. He ran one of the toughest Senate races in recent years, defeating Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle in 2004. That was two years after he narrowly lost another brutal Senate race to Johnson.

"He has a lot of talent," said Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, who is up for re-election in 2008. "He won a very tough race and is an excellent speaker."

Thune said it is "way too early" to speculate whether he will run for the post, which is decided by other Republicans in the Senate caucus. But he says he is qualified for the job.

"Much of the job is fundraising and recruitment, and those are two things I could do well," he said.

Other Republican senators up for re-election that year have praised Thune.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said she thinks Thune "would do a great job," while Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the second-ranking Senate Republican, said Thune "would certainly be an excellent candidate if he decided to run."

Alexander, Collins and McConnell all said it was too soon to give an endorsement to any candidate for the post, since the NRSC race won't be held until after the Nov. 2006 elections.

Thune already is helping party candidates, though.

Since he defeated Daschle, Thune has been in demand on the fundraising circuit. He recently helped raise money for Sen. Jim Talent of Missouri, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Nebraska Rep. Tom Osborne, who is running for governor of that state.

Thune also said he has had informal discussions with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., about a larger role in helping the party get its message out.

A spokesman for Frist confirmed the new role, saying Thune would be part of a Republican advisory group that regularly meets with the majority leader.

The spokesman, Bob Stevenson, said Thune has a bright future in the party.

"We'd be missing a great opportunity if we didn't tap him for added duties," Stevenson said.

Thune said he hasn't "given a lot of thought" to how the campaign committee role would affect Johnson's race.

"The 2008 cycle is so far off," he said.

Johnson on Monday said the two senators have had a good relationship since Thune came to the Senate, though they sometimes disagree.

"It's up to John whether that's where he wants to spend his energies," Johnson said of the possible campaign committee post. "It's my hope we would continue that kind of relationship regardless of what kind of official responsibilities he would take on."

Johnson said he doesn't plan a formal announcement for some time, but that he expects to run again.

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WASHINGTON - Freshman Sen. John Thune could be a member of his party's leadership as soon as next year. Thune said Monday that several senators have approached him about becoming the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the party's campaign arm, for...
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Monday, 26 December 2005 12:00 AM
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