Chris Cilizza at the Washington Post has an interesting assessment of the presidential prospects of Senator John Thune of South Dakota. Thune has been taking a wait-and-see attitude toward a possible run in 2012, neither ruling it in or out.

Cilizza says that GOP strategists are most enthusiastic about a prospective bid. I've heard similar sentiments. And Thune is well-positioned to champion issues that will have broad appeal among conservative grassroots. If Mitch Daniels runs, he would likely be the favorite of movement conservatives. But Thune will have strong credibility with conservatives, too, having been an early and outspoken critic of TARP and the various bailouts.

And earlier this week Thune, as head of the Republican Policy Committee in the Senate, blasted the Obama administration for its timidity on Iran, warning about the delays in implementing sanctions that both parties in both houses have approved.

A report issued by the RPC notes: "There is little to show for President Obama’s year of engagement with Iran other than the additional enriched uranium Iran was able to manufacture during that time. Iran sees diplomatic posturing and piecemeal sanctions against it as a mere nuisance and a cost that can easily be paid for its continued enrichment of uranium. The cost of Iran’s intransigence must be raised, as the current diplomatic strategy has accomplished little, according to Secretary of State Clinton’s own assessment. Congress can accomplish this by sending to the President a final bill authorizing sanctions on entities providing refined petroleum products to Iran, and the President should aggressively implement those and other sanctions already available to him."

Thune also points out that then-Senator Obama was once far more skeptical of Russia's willingness to take on Iran. “Russia’s dangerous involvement with Iran’s nuclear program has been well-documented,” Obama said in 2005.

Sanctions, of course, are unlikely to change significantly the behavior of a regime determined to obtain nuclear weapons. And even if sanctions have some effect, it'll be delayed. Thune seems to recognize that. An aide to the senator says that Thune regards sanctions as "a long overdue step, not the end of the process, but a long overdue step."
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