Tags: demint | tea | party | 2012 | obama | gop | senate

DeMint: Tea Party Revolutionizing GOP, America

Sunday, 03 Jul 2011 05:56 PM

By Matthew Belvedere and Ashley Martella

The best way for Republicans to win back the majority in the Senate is “to do what we say we’re going to do,” argues tea party favorite Sen. Jim DeMint in an exclusive Newsmax.TV interview.

The South Carolina conservative maintains that he’d “rather have 30 Republicans who believe in the principles of freedom than 60 who believe in nothing at all.

“The quickest way for us to get back to majority is to do what we say we're going to do,” he says. “And that is to support a constitutionally limited government.”

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DeMint arrived in Washington as a freshman congressman in 1999. He served three terms in the House. When he became a senator in 2004, Republicans had 55 seats, a large majority in the House, and a Republican, George W. Bush, in the White House.

“We didn't do what we said we were going to do,” he points out, and the election of 2006 proved costly for Republicans. “So if you have the numbers but not the principles it doesn't matter . . . I think that set the Republican Party back 10 or 20 years.”

Now in his second term in the Senate, DeMint spoke to Newsmax.TV about his new book, “The Great American Awakening: Two Years That Changed America, Washington, and Me.” It covers the two years from the time President Barack Obama was elected until “the last earthquake election where we saw dramatic changes in Washington,” he describes.

Editor's Note: Buy Jim DeMint's new book, “The Great American Awakening: Two Years That Changed America, Washington, and Me.” -- Go Here Now.

DeMint says that what he wanted “people to see in this book is the importance of citizen activism. What the tea parties and the town halls and when people came to Washington on 9/12 and other times. The book just tracks what happens around America when this groundswell develops. And how that changed how we did business inside of Congress. And how it ultimately changed the people who served here.”

The book is a rallying cry for conservatives in 2012 — an election cycle that DeMint plans to be heavily involved in through his political action committee, the Senate Conservatives Fund.

DeMint didn’t set out to buck the Republican establishment. He was trying to raise money for the National Republican Senatorial Committee after the GOP stumbles in the 2006 and 2008 elections. But that proved difficult.

“So many people said that they're not going to give us another dime until we start acting like Republicans,” he explains. “And I asked if they would give to an organization, a PAC that only supported rock solid conservatives. And a lot of people said yes.”

The Senate Conservatives Fund was launched and started with endorsements of Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania and Marco Rubio from Florida — both of whom won their elections and are now part of the conservative core in the Senate.

The Toomey endorsement put DeMint at odds with the party establishment, which supported the re-election of then-Republican Arlen Specter. DeMint says the GOP leadership “believed in places like Pennsylvania that an Arlen Specter could win and a Pat Toomey couldn't. But what we saw is that conservatives who tell the truth, who tell it like it is, can get elected anywhere in the country.

“It was not because the political establishment changed it was because power moved out of Washington back into the hands of the American people . . . if people read the book they'll see we do this on the outside, they start changing on the inside and we still got a lot of changing we need to do.”

DeMint says his PAC raised $9 million for conservative candidates in the last election. He hopes to pull in $15 million this cycle as Republicans target the 23 Democrat seats up for election in 2012.

“We hope to have at least eight or 10 [races] where we've got conservative Republicans running in primaries we can support,” he says. “We just announced our first endorsement this year, which is Josh Mandel in Ohio, who will be taking on Sherrod Brown, one of the most liberal members of the Senate.”

DeMint is counting on continued tea party support.

“The tea party showed that if Americans get active they can change things. They can elect new people,” he says in the Newsmax interview. “We wouldn't have banned earmarks if it hadn't been for the tea parties being active . . . we now, as a party, are now supporting a balanced budget amendment. We're working together to try to cut spending. None of these things could have happened without the tea party movement.”

The tea party and conservatives like DeMint pushed these issues on the Republican leadership. But he says he’s still on good terms with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“Of course we disagreed on some things. It always happens. But he's always showed me a lot of courtesy. And we continue to work together.

“[McConnell] knows that I'm going to go out and get involved in Republican primaries all across the country this time and select real conservatives who we think can win the general election . . . I don’t think the Republican Party will get as involved in primaries. So hopefully we won’t find ourselves at odds in primaries like we did last time.”

In 2012, DeMint can continue to help others get elected with his own re-election last year behind him. But he almost didn’t run in 2010.

He writes about it in “The Great American Awakening” and tells Newsmax.TV that the two-year span of the book was a very lonely time and he did a lot of soul-searching.

“It was a process for me of just making a decision that I had to go against my own leadership in some cases,” he says. “I had to step out of the comfort zone here. I frankly think that I would have been crushed if so many American people had not gotten behind me,” he admits.

DeMint says it was his wife, Debbie, who never wanted him to run for office in the first place, “who decided that we needed to stay into the fight. I got back in it. I was expecting a real hard campaign, but as it turned out, it was not a hard campaign. And I gave most of my campaign funds to other candidates.”

When his number is up again in 2016, DeMint won’t be running for a third Senate term. He says it’s not a campaign promise like he made to limit his House tenure. “Just my belief that the longer people stay up here the more likely it is they become part of the problem rather than the solution. And I don’t want to go that way myself. There will be a lot of ways we can serve. But my intent after this six years is to do something else.”

Perhaps, run for president? Only time will tell.

But there’s already speculation and even a Facebook group of DeMint disciples who would like to see the South Carolina maverick as a candidate for the White House.

Editor's Note: Buy Jim DeMint's new book, “The Great American Awakening: Two Years That Changed America, Washington, and Me.” -- Go Here Now.

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