South Dakota Senator John Thune announced today that he's opting out of the 2012 GOP Presidential sweepstakes. Thune recently rose to #4 on my rankings, thanks in large part to decreasing likelihood of others running. This is the second month in a row that one of my Top 5 dropped out, following Mike Pence in January.
I'm less surprised at Thune than I was at Pence, who I thought was better than 50% chance of running. Thune, who I earlier thought was very serious, had clearly stopped taking it seriously several months ago.
I wrote with those last rankings that "At this point, I honestly don’t see much chance of anyone below my top five – Pawlenty, Barbour, Romney, Thune, and Perry – getting the nomination."
I still think that's right, which means we're down to four. Of course, Rick Perry continues to insist he's not running, but not in a way that really shuts the door on it. In fact, I think as others are saying nay, it paves the way for Perry to pull the reluctant-warrior act of running to fill the void.
Jim DeMint, who I just dropped from the Top 5, could do the same thing; he's really the only other one I can see who could put together a full-scale campaign.
And I suppose there's a case to be made that Mitch Daniels, who I have at #7, could end up catching fire in a small field. But I doubt it, and besides my sense from people I talk to is still that he's not serious about running.
So, it seems to me that as it looks now, we'll have three serious, well-funded, reasonably electable candidates, plus some number of Gingriches, Huntsmans, Bachmanns, or whatnot.
I think in that field Pawlenty stands to do extremely well in Iowa, and ride that to the nomination. The removal of any potentially serious candidates who might have competed with him for the Iowa vote is a big plus, which means to me that the Pence and Thune decisions are particularly good for T-Paw.