The correct term is irony.
And for once, it’s used correctly. John Thune’s elevation to the No. 3 spot in the Senate Republican leadership is remarkable, impressive, and yes, ironic.
Thune gained a Senate seat by defeating Tom Daschle in 2004 in an election where the major issue was, had Daschle grown too big for his SD britches and too comfortable in his East Coast tuxedo?
SD voters decided the answer was yes, and Daschle, after three terms in the Senate and 26 years in Congress, was out. He had risen to the post of Democratic leader of the Senate, a tremendous accomplishment but apparently a kiss of death in his home state.
Now, Thune is the No. 3 GOPer in the Senate and rising like a hit single. The No. 2 man, Republican Whip Sen. John Kyl, has said he will put down the whip next year, so JT could move up again.
Thune told me he likes having a seat at the table to make the case for South Dakota issues and ideas.
He also said Tuesday he feels his views and votes are in sync with South Dakota, so he may be less vulnerable. Perhaps that differentiates him from Daschle, George McGovern and Larry Pressler, who served three terms in the Senate from South Dakota but were denied a fourth.
It’s been called the Kurse of Karl, in honor of SD’s only four-term senator, Karl Mundt. But some in South Dakota’s tiny chattering class say it has more to do with the perception of power than a fourth term. We’re small staters who don’t like to see someone put on titles or airs.
Of course, if Thune runs for vice president and is elected in 2012, or if he runs for and wins the White House in 2016 or 2020 — and he’s still just 50 — he need not worry about that.
Being one of the top Republicans in the Senate, with a new assignment to appear before the media as often as possible, is a great way to get there.