Washington (CNN) - In the past few weeks, Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota has become a buzzword for speculation about likely contenders for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012.
And Thune himself is not ruling out the possibility of a presidential run.
In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Thursday, Thune said "I think if I made a decision to do that, and I haven't, I would be ready," and that he is more likely make a decision "early next year."
Speaking about the decision-making process, Thune said, "I think you have to get down on a very practical level and say, can I raise the money? Is there support out there? Do I see a pathway to get there? "
No stranger to tough political campaigns, Thune was a three-term Congressman before defeating then Senate minority leader Tom Daschle in 2004, earning Thune the nickname 'giant-killer.' Since then, the freshmen senator has become a prominent voice in the Republican leadership.
When asked whether a decision by former Alaska Governor and 2008 Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin to seek the nomination would have an affect on his own, Thune indicated that such an announcement would be a game changer for any GOP candidate.
"I think that if she were to get into the race, it would clearly change the equation for a lot of people," Thune said.
"She is someone who has a tremendous following out there, particularly in some of the early states. This is not a campaign where you start out and you run nationally right away. It's all sequence and you have to get through certain states. She has a big following."
Tune into The Situation Room at 5 p.m. on Thursday to see the entire interview.