Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said he'll decide soon whether he'll enter the 2012 presidential race and that Sen. Jon Kyl's retirement announcement has "not really" changed his thinking about next year.
There has been speculation Kyl's announcement could affect Thune's plans, given the opening Kyl left in the GOP Senate leadership.
In his remarks, he poked fun at former Alaska GOv. Sarah Palin for appearing in a reality show.
"The closest I've come to being on a reality TV show is C-SPAN's live coverage of the Senate floor," Thune said, in what was likely a reference to Palin, who had a reality TV show that aired on TLC. The crowd cheered at his remark. The former Alaska governor opted to skip CPAC this year, despite being offered the coveted closing speech spot.
Thune's only prediction for 2012 was that a "conservative" would defeat President
"Let's make 2012 our moment," he said.
Chants of "Run, John, run" rippled through the crowd as he started his speech to the.
"I'm betting that 2012 is going to be the year that we not only take back the Senate, but also the White House," he said.
Thune noted the one thing he learned from his successful 2004 long-shot campaign, where he unseated then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), was to stay in the "arena."
"It's important to be in the race; it's important to be in the arena," he said.
The two-term Republican also poked fun at one of his better-known potential rivals for the GOP presidential nomination.
"I've been to Iowa plenty of times, but usually on the way to South Dakota," he said.
-- This post was updated 3:07 p.m.