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A Year Behind, Thune Hits Airwaves

Former Rep. John Thune (R) began his advertising campaign in the state’s Senate race Friday with a radio ad, and will air his first television commercial of the contest today.

In the radio ad, which is running statewide, Thune expresses his support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, an issue being debated on the Senate floor this week.

“Like the vast majority of South Dakotans, I strongly support this amendment,” says Thune in the ad. “Frankly I wish we didn’t need a constitutional amendment to tell us something we already know.”

The ad does not mention Thune’s opponent — Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D) — by name.

Thune campaign manager Dick Wadhams noted that 75 percent of South Dakotans oppose gay marriage, according to a Zogby International poll conducted in May.

“It is clear that Daschle is on the wrong side of South Dakotans on gay marriage,” said Wadhams. “It is an issue he doesn’t want to be talking about.”

Daschle has said he believes same-sex marriage is a state issue, the same position adopted by the Democratic presidential ticket of Sens. John Kerry (Mass.) and John Edwards (N.C.).

Edwards, who was picked last week by Kerry to be his running mate, recently sent out an e-mail fundraising appeal on Daschle’s behalf.

In the solicitation Edwards called the South Dakota Senator a “mentor” during his six years in office, and referred to Thune as a “Republican yes-man who will rubber stamp the Bush agenda.”

Dan Pfeiffer, deputy campaign manager for Daschle, called Thune’s decision to focus on same-sex marriage in his first paid communication with voters a “startling admission that he has nothing to gain by talking about health care or the economy.”

Thune’s television commercial is set to begin tonight with 60-second ads running at 400 points statewide, meaning the average viewer will see the ad four times in a week.

Thune’s advertising blitz comes roughly a year after Daschle began his own media campaign.

Daschle has been on the air almost continuously since last summer with ads touting his ability to deliver for the state.

Thune has kept his powder dry since formally entering the race in January, operating under the belief that the state’s voters were sick of political campaigns after the 2002 race between himself and Sen. Tim Johnson (D).

In that contest, both candidates were on the air for more than a year. Johnson won the race by just 524 votes, the narrowest margin of any of the 34 Senate races on the ballot in 2002.