WASHINGTON -- South Dakota Sen. John Thune, one of Washington's brightest stars, recently decided against running for president he says in order to make a greater impact in the U.S. 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 explained in a statement on his website.
"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," the statement read.
In an exclusive interview with CBN News, Thune explained the reasons behind that decision.
Faith Doesn't Flee
Thune has what a lot of people want in a presidential candidate. But his sights aren't on the White House - at least for now. This small town guy from Murdo, S.D., is very comfortable exerting his Christian influence as a United States senator.
"I have a Christian worldview and so it shapes the way that I view issues," Thune told CBN News. "I don't apologize for that, and I don't think people of faith ought to shrink away from being in the public arena."
Thune doesn't shrink away from a fight. He's the fourth-ranking Republican senator and, as chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, is responsible for coordinating GOP legislation.
CBN News followed Thune recently as he attended various meetings on Capitol Hill on everything from Israeli affairs to entitlement reform to the Obama administration's controversial health care law.
Sometimes, Thune's day doesn't end until he makes the rounds at cocktail parties, where he engages in small talk while pushing GOP policy.
America's Future at Stake
Ultimately for Thune, the battle isn't about Republicans vs. Democrats. He says it's about the country's future.
Thune questions President Obama's leadership, noting the administration's upcoming budget doesn't tackle the hard issues of entitlement reform.
"When you're the president of the United States and you know that the biggest issue facing you is this cliff that we're about ready to head over if we don't get this spending and debt situation under control, it's very irresponsible not to take the action that is necessary to fix the problem," he said.
The Tea Party wants Thune and Republicans to fix the problem, but Thune says it's going to take some time.
"As much as we're going to push the envelope as far as we can, we're probably not going to get everything they want accomplished in these next two years," Thune said.
"Particularly with a Democrat president and a Democrat Senate," he explained. "There are limitations to what we are going to be able to accomplish and to keep expectations realistic."
Social Issues Front and Center
So what can voters expect from Thune? His legislative track record includes a 100 percent rating last year from the American Conservative Union.
He's also taken a lead role in crafting energy and budget legislation and on the pro-family issue. So far, he's voted to prohibit late-term abortions, stop research on embryos, and supported a federal marriage amendment.
Thune's philosophy is that although the country is in a fiscal mess, that doesn't mean social issues should be on the back burner.
"I think most social conservatives agree we want a government that's smaller, a government that's more responsive and accountable and all that," Thune told CBN News.
"But we also need to recognize that there are important issues that impact the basic glue, the foundation, that holds our culture together. And that comes down to the family unit and we can't ignore those," he added.
'One-on-One' with Obama
Thune has a lot on his plate, but he's shown a tough gritty side. In 2004, he became a Republican giant slayer when he beat Tom Daschle, the sitting Democratic majority leader.
While Thune won't be taking on another giant in 2012, maybe the former high school and college basketball star with the good looks and money jump shot could settle things on the court with the president.
"I'm waiting for my invitation from the White House to play, but I don't expect it is going to come anytime soon," Thune quipped.
"I think that will be a good way to settle a lot of these big issues," he said. "Let's play one-on-one and winner gets to choose how we do entitlement reform, tax reform."
For now, Thune's holding court in the United States Senate and he's got game.