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 SupremeCourtWatchOnline.com monitor the deliberations over Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.