John Thune, the photogenic Republican senator from South Dakota, just announced that he is not running for president in 2012. From a statement on his website:
For months now, my wife Kimberley and I have received encouragement from family, friends, colleagues, and supporters from across South Dakota and the country to run for the presidency of the United States. We have appreciated hearing their concerns about where the country is headed and their hopes for a new direction.
Along the way, we have been reminded of the importance of being in the arena, of being in the fight. And make no mistake that during this period of fiscal crisis and economic uncertainty there is a fight for the future direction of America. 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. 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.
Dave Weigel argues that Thune's candidacy would have been doomed by his vote in favor of TARP back in 2008.
So where does this leave the 2012 field? No major candidate has officially declared. Newt Gingrich has said he's going to decide by the end of the month. Sarah Palin is keeping her options open, but her political stock has declined significantly in the past year.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney has all-but-announced his candidacy, and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour looks to be gearing up as well with a trip to Iowa. Thune's exit could be good news for Romney, with one less establishment-friendly candidate in the field.
Mike Huckabee, conversely, seems reluctant to run. According to a new Washington Post profile, Huckabee, once a diet evangelist, has put on weight. And he is still considering whether he is "mentally, emotionally, spiritually and every other way prepared to do this again."