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John Thune not running for president

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, Friday, Feb. 11, 2011. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

South Dakota Sen. John Thune announced on his website Tuesday that he will not seek the GOP presidential nomination in 2012.

"There is a battle to be waged over what kind of country we are going to leave our children and grandchildren and that battle is happening now in Washington, not two years from now," he said. "So at this time, I feel that I am best positioned to fight for America's future here in the trenches of the United States Senate."

Thune, who shot to political stardom by upsetting then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004, has been buzzed about as a potential GOP candidate despite (a) not distinguishing himself on any particular issue during his time in the Senate and (b) having voted for the TARP bank bailout bill in 2008 that enraged many Tea Partiers.

That's in large part because the handsome, 50-year-old, second-term senator both looks presidential and seems relatively new to the political scene - the Washington Post described him last week as someone backers see as "a fresh, unflappable face who looks like he is destined to be president - tall, plain-spoken, homespun."

The former high school athlete has been casting himself as the most electable conservative in a head-to-head matchup with President Obama - another youngish senator with little prior executive experience. Yet he wrote Tuesday that after "lots of prayer," he decided that he could not both run for president and focus sufficiently on his Senate duties.

While considering whether to seek the presidency, he wrote, "[my family and I] have been reminded of the importance of being in the arena, of being in the fight." 

Added Thune, a member of the GOP leadership: "And make no mistake that during this period of fiscal crisis and economic uncertainty there is a fight for the future direction of America."

Thune was in contact with potential supporters and donors as he considered a presidential run, but he did not develop the sort of national political organization that has been established by likely GOP contenders Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty.