While names like Palin, Romney and Huckabee get most of the attention when it comes to 2012 presidential speculation, a dark horse may be rising out of the Great Plains.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune has $5.5 million in the bank, a handsome face, hoop skills that rival the president’s and an upward trajectory in the U.S. Senate. Despite failing at a 2008 bid to head the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), Thune was able to take control of the Republican Policy Committee after Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) fell from grace.