‘I’VE NOT OBSERVED THAT’…. The Washington Post had a lengthy profile piece on Sen. John Thune yesterday, taking a closer look at the possible presidential candidate. The piece was filled with quotes from those who work with the South Dakota Republican, some whom seem more impressed with Thune than others.

Thune chairs the Senate Republican Policy Committee, the No. 4 leadership position, and presides over the GOP senators’ private lunches every Tuesday. Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.), the most senior Republican senator, said Thune plays his role “with grace and diplomacy.” But when asked whether he has shown leadership on a specific policy issue, Lugar said: “I’ve not observed that.”

Ouch. Lugar’s quote is awfully close to an insult. Asked whether Thune’s shown leadership in an any area, Lugar could have said, “Sure, time and again, Thune’s shown great leadership on a variety of issues.” Instead, he said, “I’ve not observed that.”

It’s a reminder that no one, not even Thune’s allies, can think of any meaningful work he’s done on anything.

“He’s kind of an enigma,” said a former senior GOP leadership aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share observations candidly. “When you hear senators or chiefs [of staff] talking about Thune, it’s always with a little bit of puzzlement. Is he an empty suit? Or does he really have his eye on the ball? Nobody’s really sure. They just keep watching him.”

Remember, Thune has been in the Senate for more than six years. Folks who work with him in the closely-knit Senate, especially Republicans, have had a chance to get to know him, and they’re still not sure if he’s anything more than an empty suit.

It’s why I consider Thune the Republican version of John Edwards — he hasn’t tackled any noteworthy policy initiatives, he’s failed to distinguished himself as an expert in any area, and his most notable accomplishment appears to be an ability to impress people with his handsomeness.

If I’m Thune, I take Lugar’s quote as a helpful suggestion: you’re not quite ready for prime-time.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.