Sen. Thune won't run for president

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneBiden to campaign in Minnesota as GOP ups pressure in 'sleeper' state GOP sees path to hold Senate majority Ensuring more Americans have access to 5G technology MORE (R-S.D.) announced Tuesday he will not pursue the presidency in 2012, depriving the GOP of a young, telegenic and potentially strong candidate who had been encouraged to run by some senior Republicans.

The South Dakota senator, in an announcement on his website, said he felt he was best-suited to remain in the Senate.

"[A]t this time, I feel that I am best positioned to fight for America’s future here in the trenches of the United States Senate," Thune wrote.

The senator had previously promised to announce his intentions by the end of February.

His decision narrows the field of potential Republican presidential candidates, though virtually none have formally announced their candidacies.

"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," Thune said in his statement. "We have appreciated hearing their concerns about where the country is headed and their hopes for a new direction."

Thune had received open encouragement from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMnuchin says he learned of Pelosi's letter to him about stimulus talks 'in the press' On The Money: Trump makes a late pitch on the economy | US economy records record GDP gains after historic COVID-19 drop | Pelosi eyes big COVID-19 deal in lame duck Lawmakers say infrastructure efforts are falling victim to deepening partisan divide MORE (R-Ky.) to pursue the GOP nomination for president in 2012, and other Republican senators seemed to push their colleague in that direction as well. Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Election night could be a bit messy The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden blitz battleground states Late donor surges push election spending projections to new heights MORE (R-S.C.), for instance, said he was "real high" on Thune.

The decision by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) earlier this month to retire at the end of his term in 2012 opens up the possibility that Thune will look to move up the ladder in the Senate GOP leadership instead. Sens. John CornynJohn CornynGOP sees path to hold Senate majority Cook moves Texas to 'toss-up' Biden pushes into Trump territory MORE (R-Texas) and Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe spectre of pension failures haunts this election Bitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court Senate Health Committee chair asks Cuomo, Newsom to 'stop second guessing' FDA on vaccine efficacy MORE (R-Tenn.) have said they'll pursue Kyl's job as GOP whip in the next Congress.

Thune had been making moves to prepare for a run in case he decided to jump in, talking about how he would campaign aggressively in Iowa, which neighbors his home state of South Dakota, for instance. He also sat for an interview last week in which he suggested he might run a more traditionally socially conservative campaign.

His decision makes him the second potential candidate to bow out of the 2012 race. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) announced in January he wouldn't run. Pence is likely to pursue the governorship of Indiana instead. Herman Cain, a Republican pizza magnate, is so far the only candidate to have formally declared his candidacy.

Thune would have faced several obstacles to winning the nomination in 2012, foremost of which was low name identification. He also finished in the lower tier of candidates at a straw poll at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, results which he complained had been "engineered."

—This post was updated at 12:32 p.m.