Washington (CNN) – He's not saying yes, but he's also not saying no. Sen. John Thune, the number three Republican in the Senate, said Thursday he doesn't expect to be chosen as Mitt Romney's running mate.
Speaking before a meeting of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, Thune was asked whether or not he would run alongside Romney in his bid for the White House.
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"I don't expect to be there, but I do expect to be in the Senate, hopefully working with a new president to take on big issues because in order to solve big problems, you gotta have presidential leadership," Thune said. "I always tell people that, you know, we have 535 members of Congress, there's only one president. There's only one person who can sign a bill into law. There's only person who has the capacity to lead the country, to engage with the Congress on solutions to the big issues."
Ever since Thune backed Romney in November 2011, his name has been mentioned as a potential No. 2 for the former Massachusetts governor. He backed Romney at a time when seven other candidates were still in the race, and voters were still deciding in key early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire.
Thune, who represents South Dakota, would provide geographic balance on a potential Republican ticket, though he would not offer a large degree of ideological disparity with the likely GOP nominee.
In his speech Thursday, Thune hit on many of the same topics Romney addresses in his campaign speeches: President Barack Obama's economic record, American-produced energy and reining in federal spending.
Thune said he was confident Romney would be elected, but that the race would be close.
"I think this is gonna be a great campaign and probably a very close election," Thune said.
He added, "I do believe that Gov. Romney will be the next president and the reason I say that is I just think that people in this country when they are concerned about their economic futures, there's a lot of anxiety about just pocketbook, bread and butter, kitchen table issues, are gonna be looking for a different direction."
Thune decided against making his own presidential bid in February 2011, but is considered a GOP hero for toppling incumbent Democrat Tom Daschle in 2004. He chairs the Senate Republican Conference, which controls the party's message in the Senate, and is often mentioned as a presidential contender down the road.