Thune: 'We're going to talk about the issues' Kimberley Thune watches as her husband, Rep. John Thune, autographs the cap of a young political supporter Aug. 7 at Prentis Park in Vermillion. His visit to Clay County is part of a 50-town, 4,000-mile campaign tour throughout South Dakota in August. by David Lias Congress may be in recess, but South Dakota Rep. John Thune isn't taking any time off to relax.
Thune, a Republican who at the urging of President George W. Bush is attempting to unseat Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, is pulling out all the stops in his campaign this month.
He began in August with a 50-community, 4,000-mile "hometown tour" of towns and cities throughout South Dakota.
That tour brought him to Prentis Park in Vermillion Aug. 7.
He also found time this week to play host to Bush, who traveled to Mount Rushmore Thursday in an effort to boost Thune's campaign.
"Congress is on recess during the month of August, and that gives us an opportunity to go out town to town, neighborhood to neighborhood, person to person and talk to people about the things that we think are important to the future of South Dakota," Thune said, "and we get to hear from them. I think that's what campaigns are all about."
The millions of dollars being spent by Thune and Johnson on their respective U.S. Senate campaigns, Thune said, demonstrate the high stakes involved in this race.
"This is an election that really makes a difference for the future of this nation. We have to work awfully hard on the ground to make sure that we're successful. I'm convinced that all of the millions of dollars that are going to be spent on television and media aren't going to decide the outcome. It's going to be you," he told supporters who gathered at the park.
"One thing I will assure you � we will work as hard as humanly possible to get across the finish line first on election day," Thune said.
"I think what we have to do in our race, and to the degree that the candidates can control their own messages � we're going to talk about the issues," he said. "Elections at a fundamental level are about differences, and we need to talk about the differences, but we need to do it in a way that is constructive and positive."
Thune said South Dakotans are weary from the heavy level of campaign advertising this year � particularly from the two U.S. Senate candidates.
"Ads need to be done in a style and tone that is reflective of the people of South Dakota," he said. "This is a big race, it has some very big consequences not only for the state but for the country, and I think there is going to be a tremendous amount of media interest in South Dakota.
"There's going to be a lot of money spent of television," Thune said. "I think that's a reality that we all have to deal with. I wish that wasn't true, but that is the reality of modern politics."
Candidates, he said, must strive to run positive campaigns. That's challenging because special interest groups from outside South Dakota nearly always become involved in high profile political campaigns.
"The thing that we have to do as candidates is try our best to talk about the differences between us in a constructive and a positive way knowing that some of those outside groups aren't going to do that," Thune said.
The influence of outside political groups is frustrating at times, he said, because both candidates' messages to voters can become lost.
"The thing that's frustrating about it is that sometimes you feel like these missiles are going over your head, and you're ducking to get out of the way," Thune said. "The concern is that the candidate will lose control of his message, and of course it's important that, as a candidate, you want to control your own message."
He estimates that by the end of the South Dakota U.S. Senate campaign in November, "it will get to the point where every four out of five ads are going to be run by somebody other than than the candidates themselves � be it political parties or outside groups."
Thune said earlier in the campaign he tried to reach an agreement with Johnson that would allow them to limit the influence of outside groups on their campaigns.
"That didn't happen," he said, "and I think that the people of South Dakota, for better or worse, are going to be subjected to a barrage of advertising throughout the course of the next three months.
"I'm going to do my very best to see that to some degree we control it in my campaign," Thune said. "I will talk about the issues, I will talk about the differences, but I will do it in a way that I believe is constructive and adds to the debate."