So John Thune isn't running for president, after all.
Thune's slot, as David Frum argued last week, was "generic Republican." A position undermined to some extent by some of the votes he's had to cast as a US Senator, as Dave Weigel points out. Still, I'm always a bit suspicious of claims like Weigel's that a single vote -- in this case, TARP -- makes it impossible for a candidate to win the nomination.
The thing is that someone has to win, and most candidates wind up with at least one difficult vote or speech or proposal in their past. No one is truly generic. Senators have all had to cast votes, and governors have all had to sign bills -- plus they can be held accountable for anything that's happened in their state. And it's impossible to navigate these things perfectly, even for a pol who has the White House in mind very early in their career, because it's impossible to know which positions that seem safe today will wind up being dangers tomorrow. That's true for TARP (supported by a Republican president and the Republican nominee for president; it's true for Mitt Romney's Massachusetts health care plan (supported by conservative policy wonks at the time).
Of course, some positions -- some current positions -- draw the vetoes of key party groups and are therefore absolute disqualifications. No pro-choice Republicans or pro-life Democrats are going to win a presidential nomination. But the record on even that most sensitive issue is that conversion experiences can make up for old records, whether it's George H.W. Bush or Al Gore. The bottom line, in my view, is that if the people and groups who choose the GOP presidential nominee had decided they liked John Thune, odds are that TARP and other past votes wouldn't have stopped him.
Meanwhile, the role of generic Republican remains available, although I think that Tim Pawlenty has been the leader for that spot for some time now -- although Rick Perry still seems to me like the most logical candidate for that spot. Under a year to Iowa...