by Jonathan Singer, Mon Aug 07, 2006 at 06:35:28 AM EDT
Common wisdom as of the beginning of this election cycle was that although the Democrats would have an opportunity to pick up a handful of seats in the Senate this year, 2008 would provide a better opportunity for the party to hit the magic number of 51 -- or even more. Notable pick-up opportunities for Senate Democrats in the next cycle include Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Virginia (as well as perhaps Georgia, North Carolina and Texas). Nevertheless, Democratic success in 2008 is certainly not a foregone conclusion as few GOP Senators appear to be headed for retirement -- particularly in swing states -- and the most endangered GOP incumbents will likely have tons of money on-hand.
With the race for the Senate in 2008 still so wide open and few people believing that Liddy Dole will stay on as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, many have assumed that the position would go to John Thune, the ambitious freshman from South Dakota. But as Kevin Woster reports for the Rapid City Journal, Thune no longer wants the post.
Sen. John Thune said Sunday that he would not seek the job as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a position seen as a springboard to the upper echelon of GOP Senate leadership.
Thune confirmed in an interview with the Journal late Sunday afternoon that he had told Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the second-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, on Thursday that he would not run for the committee chairman's spot. That ended months of speculation that Thune -- who rose quickly to prominence for a freshman senator after his upset win two years ago over Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle -- might take over fundraising and candidate recruitment efforts for the GOP in the 2008 elections.
Make no mistake, this announcement by Thune is extremely telling even if he claims his decision was based on family considerations. That an up-and-coming star of the Republican Party from a state that Bob Dole even carried in 1996 is unwilling to take a post that he has flirted with almost since the day he entered the Senate is stunning evidence of the lack of confidence that many Republicans -- including red state Republicans -- have in their party today. If John Thune, a party hack who owes his 2004 victory to the White House and to the current Republican leadership in the Senate, doesn't believe in his party's chances for 2008, what then do the shakier members of the caucus such as Norm Coleman, John Sununu, Gordon Smith and Wayne Allard (all of whom will likely face strong challenges during the next cycle) believe?