South Dakota Senator John Thune
Like Mitt Romney, the Junior Senator from South Dakota is straight out of central casting for the role of president. Intelligent, articulate, handsome, with a winning smile and an easy going disposition - it's hard to locate anything missing from the prototypical presidential check list.
Throw in a 100% rating from the American Conservative Union in 2006, and a home base next door to all important Iowa, and you can construct a very plausible case for Thune emerging as a legitimate contender for the Republican nomination.
If Thune does have a weakness, it's that he has no real private sector experience. Thune has been involved in politics or politically related work (he opened a lobbying firm after the '02 election) his entire adult life, though he does possess a Masters in Business from the University of South Dakota.
In the plus column, Thune has proven himself to be a political giant-killer, knocking off then Minority Leader Tom Dachle in 2004. Prior to that, Thune nearly defeated incumbent Tim Johnson in 2002, losing by less than a thousand votes in a contest some allege was tainted by fraud; and in 1998 Thune was reelected to the House with 75% of the vote, the highest margin of victory ever for a statewide official. Put simply, the man knows how to win votes.
But is he interested in running? In an interview this summer with RealClearPolitics, Thune gave a stock, non-comittal answer to a question about his interest in 2012. "I've got a job to do right now, and of course I'm running for reelection in 2010 for the Senate," Thune said, "so I'm very focused on that I haven't given consideration to anything beyond that.
No doubt that will remain his answer at least through the election next November. In the meantime, Thune's profile got a nifty bump this week with a favorable column from the New York Times' David Brooks.