Sunday, February 20, 2011

Thune for President

It seems very likely John Thune will become a candidate for the Republican nomination for President.

JRT has been carefully laying the groundwork for a Presidential for campaign since soon after the 2008 general election. He has enhanced his presence among Republican activists and through his ecampaign and a series of online petition signing please enhanced his already considerable database of online contacts. It is important to note that the Thune organization already had a nationwide network of support as a result of the 2004 campaign against every GOP activist’s arc enemy Tom Daschle.

The 2004 defeat of the Senate Majority Leader raised Thune’s status as a giant killer. During the post 2004 election, Senator Thune’s exposure to Republican activists was further enhanced by high profile speeches across the country at Republican fundraising dinners.

It helped Thune’s stature when he was elevated to the #4 GOP leadership post, the Senate Republican Policy Committee, position when Sen. John Ensign (Nevada) embarrassed himself and had to resign.

For his 2010 re elect effort he hired a recognized top notch campaign manager and put in place a first rate finance and ecampaign infrastructure.

When the petition filing deadline in June of 2010 passed and finding himself without opposition, Thune was freed up to campaign nationwide on behalf of other Republican candidates. This obviously is very desirable in that it enables a prospective Presidential candidate to meet activists and build a national network.

Having $7 million in the bank and not having to spend it on a November campaign doesn’t hurt either. $7 million is a nice nest egg to begin a national primary campaign.

Certainly candidate John Thune has some advantage in that the campaign begins in Iowa. He shares a media market (Sioux Falls and Sioux City) with northwestern Iowa. He understands Agriculture, talks Midwest, and is a Champion of Ethanol. (Thune’s challenge maybe to downplay expectations in Iowa but that can wait for another look in January of next year should he become a candidate.) While Thune is unknown among the National electorate he is very well known among the GOP activists whose help he will need to organize the requisite get out the vote campaigns in the States.

John Thune has said he will make a decision by the end of this month. The questions I believe he is considering are:

Can I make a difference in leading the Nation?

Is this the right thing to do for me and my family?

Can I Win? And the subset, can I raise the requisite campaign War Chest?

How will it affect my political standing in South Dakota (campaigning vs.spending time representing South Dakota)?

John Thune is an excellent political strategist, thoughtful, careful, and determined. He has a history of making excellent decisions. This is not a decision he will make driven solely by power or ego.

Thune has several natural advantages (and one historical disadvantage – U S Senators don’t fair well – 2008 a modern historical exception) working for him in a Republican battle royal. As a candidate he is physically attractive, he is articulate and he is studied on the issues. His name identification as indicated earlier is low but not with those that count at this point. As yes he has that $7 million in seed money and I believe the skeleton of nationwide organization ready to start asking.

Just a note on who is John Thune. If you checked his Senate voting record, I think you will find that he is rated at the top or near top in being the most Conservative. That being said, as a Federal Legislator he has worked very hard to deliver for his constituents.

John Thune believes in Government. It is often forgotten that he worked for 4 years in the federal bureaucracy at the Small Business Administration, worked as Director of the South Dakota Division of Railroads, and for several years (4 or more I think) as the Executive Director and Chief Lobbyist for the South Dakota Municipal League.

He has laid the groundwork. Will he do it? The answer seems to be YES!

Just reading the tea leaves – Friday a week ago he spoke at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), most Prexy want-to-bees did. But what was unusual was, it was reported that his wife Kimberly went to Washington for the speech (and I assume for the purpose so that John Thune could introduce her). I do not think she would have flown in for the speech if he were not planning on a Presidential run. I also note an interesting article in last weeks in the Wall Street Journal. Finally I heard a rumor from a credible source that there John Thune will be in Murdo next week. Maybe his just going to the Pioneer Auto Museum but I’ll leave it to others to connect the dots.

John Thune can be successful. He has the skills to run a nationwide campaign and having a President from South Dakota would be good for America and South Dakota (Yes it is a values thing). I could also like Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and Hoosier Gov. Mitch Daniels and think I could grow to like a Mitt Romney.

Finally, John Thune is the only candidate that has an excellent exit strategy. Running a first class campaign with even modest success would raise national awareness and truly make him a National “Player.” That would leave several doors open to him – a Vice Presidential nomination, a future run for President in 2016 or 2020 depending on the 2012 outcome and even more importantly could put him in line to succeed GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell when the time comes.

For John Thune the future is NOW.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Celebrating the Ordinary

There is another Do Not Miss exhibition at Sioux Falls’ Washington Pavilion – In Search of Norman Rockwell’s America.

Us Baby Boomers grew up with Norman Rockwell. He was seemingly always there and illustrated the ordinary but what is best about America – its People – the product of a melting pot of many former nationalities. Life was less rushed in those days, and perhaps seemed ordinary though there the omnipresent “Cold War.”

Norman Rockwell thru his art, chronicled America. He partnered with the Boy Scouts and illustrated their annual calendar and many of Boy Scout publications. Most weeks Rockwell drawings could be found on the cover of the popular weekly magazine, “The Saturday Evening Post.”

The Washington Pavilion exhibit in terms of the Art probably only rates a solid B but if you want to see into the soul of America it is an A Plus!

Most of the Rockwell pieces are lithographs or other reprints. There is very little original work either sketches or oil painting. In terms of the art, it is less prestigious than the Pavilion’s earlier exhibit of August Rodin.

An interesting aspect is the presentation itself. The subject matter of Rockwell’s work is juxtaposed to photographs by Kevin Rivoli. While I do not know who produced the travelling exhibit, I sense (am guessing) that Rivoli has his hand in the promotion mix. Using the renowned Rockwell to help exhibit his own work seems to be a good (if not great) idea.

The exhibit ends on Sunday, February 27 though Pavilion evening hours have been extended on many nights.

Long End Bar on the Washington Pavilion - When the Pavilion project was put to a vote in conjunction with the Convention Center at the Arena I opposed it. I thought the Convention Center was a good idea and would provide for economic development but keeping the Pavilion nothing more than a white elephant. I did not understand the Sioux Falls mentality of sentimentality in keeping buildings that has outlived their purpose and had on idea of what to use them for. I thought that the Pavilion would inevitably incur cost overruns and be costly to maintain. I was correct about that.

What I was wrong about was what a great place (though expensive) the Pavilion would turn out to be and how the Convention Center has not lived up to its expectations. The Convention Center is very nice and too requires a municipal financial supplement. In the over 10 years we’ve had the Center I can’t remember more than maybe 10 events or conventions that came because of the facility or events that could not have been hosted in the Arena (and yes we need a new Arena – Events Center).

The Pavilion turned out to include the Great Hall (La Scala on the Plains), the CineDome (Imax knock off big screen theatre), black box theatre (love that name). Discovery Science Center, and Visual Arts Center.

These are all first rate and La Scala on the Plains actually spectacular. While expensive, Sioux Falls is lucky to have the Washington Pavilion.

I use it very little. In its time I have not yet attended the Symphony. My highlight reel includes besides the Rodin and Rockwell exhibits, three big screen natural history movies (excuse me films), songstress Anne Murray, Hal Holbrook in “An Evening with Mark Twain”, the travelling road show of one of my favorite musicals, “Show Boat”, and a String recital in the Black Box with students of Ray Sidoti. I missed Willie but so it goes.

In case it is not clear, I am glad we have the Pavilion, it’s a Plus for Sioux Falls.

Management of the Pavilion has had a rocky history but its fortunes are improving under the capable hands and leadership of Larry Toll. (That’s a theme for another time.) Larry is another big Plus for Sioux Falls.