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Possible '12 candidate Thune stumps for Rossi

From msnbc.com's Tom Curry
SPOKANE, Wash. - In the tight Washington Senate race, Democratic incumbent Sen. Patty Murray has a former president, Bill Clinton, coming to campaign for her Monday and the current president, Barack Obama, rallying students Thursday at the University of Washington in Seattle.

But Murray’s opponent, Dino Rossi, has a potential future president, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, campaigning for him today in Spokane, Washington.

Thune, who won his Senate seat six years ago by defeating then-Majority Leader Tom Daschle, said he hadn’t yet decided on his 2012 plans.

“I’m focused right now on trying to get people like Dino elected to the Senate and get some reinforcements that hopefully will allow us to start changing the direction of the country,” Thune said Friday morning. “We’ll talk about 2012 after the midterms.”

Asked about the proposal by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Obama to send each Social Security recipient a special $250 check to make up for the lack of a Social Security cost-of-living increase in 2011, Thune said, “There’s a law in place and you follow the law. And if that’s something he doesn’t want to do, then they ought to figure out a way to pay for it. I don’t think you ought to be borrowing from our children and grandchildren to do this.”

Thune acknowledged that economic downturn was “tough on everybody, particularly the seniors. My parents are in their 90s and live on fixed income and they live in my hometown in South Dakota. So I understand what this means to lot of people. It is ironic the timing (of Obama’s support for the $250 check) would occur right before the election.”

But partly that timing is driven by the Social Security Administration, which makes the announcement about the cost-of-living increase (or lack of one) every year at about this time. Under a 1975 law, Social Security benefits increase automatically if, and only if, there’s an increase in the Consumer Price Index, measured from the third quarter of the prior year to the third quarter of the current year.

No inflation means no cost-of-living increase.

Reporters also asked Thune about another potential 2012 GOP presidential contender, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who said in Washington Thursday he was open to the idea of a value-added tax and a tax on imported oil.

“If the Democrats control the Congress, there are going to be new taxes,” Thune predicted. “A lot of people talk about a VAT tax as a replacement for the income tax. But unless we change the composition of the Congress, you’re going to see a lot of proposals to increase revenue because the Democrats have to fund their agenda. So right now I’m not for anything that’s going to add to the tax burden on the American people.”

Thune campaigned for GOP Senate candidate Ken Buck in Colorado Tuesday. He said that next week he'll be campaigning in Indiana, Wisconsin, New York, Florida and Illinois.