Washington (CNN) – After months of speculation, Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, told supporters Tuesday that he will not seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 and instead will focus his time and efforts on Capitol Hill.
Thune released a joint statement with his wife, Kimberley, on his Facebook page shortly after noon saying that, for now, he needs to be in the Senate.
"There is a battle to be waged over what kind of country we are going to leave our children and grandchildren and that battle is happening now in Washington, not two years from now," Thune said in the statement. "So at this time, I feel that I am best positioned to fight for America's future here in the trenches of the United States Senate."
Thune, who ran unopposed for reelection in 2010, gained national attention just six years earlier when he defeated then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. Thune's victory earned him the label as a "rising star" in the Republican Party, and he became an early backer of Sen. John McCain's presidential bid in 2008.
But Thune acknowledged in an interview last fall with "The Weekly Standard" that he was now looking at his own White House bid.
"I'm getting a very full look at it," he told writer Stephen F. Hayes. "I suppose you try to think what it would look like. One, is it something you want to do. Two, do you think there's a pathway to get there. And that's obviously a thought process that involves a lot of other people – your family and whatnot."
In recent weeks, though, it became clear that Thune was hedging against a run in 2012. In his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference a few weeks ago, Thune joked he had not engaged in the type of early political positioning typical of a presidential hopeful.
"I'm honored to occupy the stage with so many of our party's great leaders," Thune said in his CPAC address. "It's fair to say that I don't have the same national name recognition of some of my more famous Republican colleagues. The truth is I've never held a book signing. I've been to Iowa plenty of times, but it's usually on my way to South Dakota. And the closest I've come to being on a reality show is C-SPAN's live coverage of the Senate floor.
He added, "The truth is I spend most of my time either back in South Dakota talking with the people who elected me or in the Senate working hard on their behalf."
In the statement, Thune said he had and his family had considered a bid for the White House after being encouraged to do so.
"During this time, Kimberley and I and our two daughters have given a great deal of thought to how we might best serve South Dakota and our nation," he said. "That process has involved lots of prayer."
During this time, Thune said he realized how important his role was in the Senate, especially during these difficult times. So for now, Thune will continue his work as chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee and he is expected to seek a more senior position in the Senate GOP leadership in 2013.
But the South Dakota Republican just turned 50. Should President Obama win a second term, Thune is very likely to be considered a major contender for the GOP nomination in 2016.