South Dakotan Thune is the new Ensign

As U.S. Sen. John Ensign ponders his misfortunes, he might look across the Senate chamber to glimpse what could have been.

There he would see fellow Republican Sen. John Thune, a South Dakotan who seems to be fulfilling the destiny that Ensign once hoped would be his.

Thune is emerging as a potential presidential contender, a status the Nevadan was working to stake out by visiting Iowa early last June, just days before the bottom fell out.

"Tall, handsome, not yet 50 and with the sort of sunny demeanor that winning national Republicans usually possess, the former high school hoops star looks the part," Politico says about Thune in a story this morning.

Ensign fans could have said the same about him a year ago. There’s not much talk like that now.

Thune, in fact, got a career boost at Ensign’s expense last June. The South Dakotan moved up in the Republican leadership and took over chairmanship of the policy committee after Ensign was forced to step down in the wake of admitting an extramarital affair.

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