Image: Ensign
Lauren Victoria Burke  /  AP
Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., is seen talking with reporters on his way to a vote on Monday, June 22, in Washington.
updated 6/25/2009 3:03:58 PM ET 2009-06-25T19:03:58

Republicans on Thursday elected Sen. John Thune to the leadership post vacated by Sen. John Ensign, who stepped down after admitting to an extramarital affair with a campaign aide.

Thune will lead the Senate Republican Policy Committee, the No. 4 position in the leadership, and play a role in shaping the Republican message and agenda on health care, climate change and spending.

Thune had served as vice chairman of the conference, the No. 5 leadership job. He captured attention in 2004 when he defeated then-Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.

Thune is seeking re-election in 2010 and has been viewed by some Republicans as a potential 2012 presidential aspirant. His campaign committee reported nearly $4.4 million in cash on hand at the end of the March reporting period.

Ensign acknowledged last week that he had an affair with a campaign staffer from December 2007 through August 2008. The Nevada senator recently apologized to his Senate colleagues.

Thune has been a consistent conservative voice in the Senate. His campaign recently created a Web site called monitor the deliberations over Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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