The Washington Times - January 5, 2012, 04:00PM

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, who has endorsed GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney, said Thursday that criticism of the former Massachusetts governor’s conservative credentials is overblown.

“If you look at his record as a governor, if you look at his positions on the issues, if you look at particularly his experience on economic and fiscal issues, he is a down-the-line, right-of-center conservative,” the 50-yead-old second-term senator told The Washington Times-affiliated “America’s Morning News” radio program.


“I know he may not be conservative enough for some people out there, but this is somebody who is going to govern in a very conservative way, … in the tradition of a Ronald Reagan,” he told program hosts John McCaslin and Dana Mills.

“Mitt Romney gets a rap for not being conservative enough maybe because he comes from Massachusetts,” he said, predicting that as the GOP field is winnowed down, Republicans of all stripes — and independents — would rally around Mr. Romney.

Tuesday’s historic turnout in the Iowa GOP caucus won by Mr. Romney is a sign that process is already happening, Mr. Thune said, despite Mr. Romney’s razor-thin margin of victory.

“Frankly, given that 2008 was very historic, and it was a wide open race on both sides, the numbers this year being as good as they were in 2008 and slightly better suggest, to me at least, that there is pretty good momentum out there. I think that is going to grow over time,” he said.

Mr. Thune, who has been mentioned as a potential running mate on a Romney ticket, endorsed the former Massachusetts governor in November.