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Senator's Star Dims, Glows


Politics is a lot like football, and holding elective office, a lot like coaching. One day you're the goat who blew the big game with that final play call; the next day, you're the hero who led the team to a championship win. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., knows the feeling well after this week.

First Thune was the whipping boy for liberal bloggers overjoyed that South Dakota was set to lose Ellsworth Air Force Base in the latest round of base closings.

They were thrilled by the prospect not because they loathe Ellsworth AFB or South Dakota but because they despise Thune, the man who ousted Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. And they were thrilled because Thune had said during last year's campaign that he would be in a better position than Daschle to save the B-1 bomber's home base because of his ties to President Bush.

The fact that conservative columnist Robert Novak cited the news as evidence of Thune's dimming star made the episode more delicious. The setup was just too perfect. How could the bloggers not gloat?

So gloat they did, starting with the ever-popular Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos, who took joy in seeing Novak, a target of the left all summer long, "cry over Thune's diminished star."

"He's been made a fool by his own president, has proven his impotence to the [South Dakota] voters, and has likely lost 6,000 mostly GOP-leaning jobs in western South Dakota," Moulitsas wrote of Thune. "Not bad for a first-year senator."

Proud Liberal noted how quickly Thune's fate had changed: "The main theme of the Thune campaign ... was that Thune would be a more effective voice for South Dakota since he is in the majority party and he has/had a close relationship with Bush. Now, a mere 8-1/2 months into a SIX-YEAR term, that all seems like ancient history."

Fortunately for Thune, the story line changed just as quickly in his favor, when the commission that picked the bases for closing reversed course on Ellsworth. The joyful jabs from liberals became ancient history, and conservative praise for Thune punctuated the blogosphere.

"The Democrats gloated when it looked like Ellsworth would be closed," Paul Mirengoff wrote at Power Line, "but now Thune gets the last laugh." GOP Bloggers added: "During his campaign against Tom Daschle, Thune said his relationship with Bush would help keep Ellsworth open. Well guess what? John Thune was right."

And in an allusion to Daily Kos' dismal record of endorsing political candidates, Little Green Footballs said mockingly: "Big oops, Kos! So what does that make -- 0-for-17?"

Moulitsas also addressed the issue after Ellsworth's salvation. Rather than give Thune any credit, though, he said someone "took pity" on the senator, and then Moulitsas took a poke at Bush for not protecting other bases dear to the hearts of Republican lawmakers. "That's what happens when you have an incompetent running the joint," Moulitsas wrote.

The takeaway for folks in the political game: The blogosphere is full of armchair quarterbacks, and their specialty is taking the lemonade you make from lemons and dumping that bittersweet concoction right square in your eyes.

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