New Newt or GOP’s Waterloo?

Jim DeMint Rise Upends GOP Order

WASHINGTON — Jim DeMint is becoming something of a tea party hero, even a potential conservative kingmaker, a status that is not making the freshman senator many friends among fellow Republicans in Congress.

A backbencher known for his eagerness to challenge the Republican establishment, DeMint is becoming one of the most influential voices of the conservative rebellion that’s shaking up GOP primaries. Tapping an anti-incumbent fervor, the South Carolina lawmaker is a coveted – and feared – endorsement, funneling money and grass-roots energy to long-shot candidates who threaten Washington’s GOP favorites.

His efforts, highly unusual for a freshman, have upset senators on Capitol Hill, where he’s viewed by many as an ideologue willing to purge centrist veterans.

“I feel a sense of urgency that some of my colleagues don’t,” he said in an interview. “The Republican Party, at least a segment of it within Washington, has increasingly joined the big-government, big-spending, earmarking ranks.”

DeMint, 58, has demonstrated an ability to read the conservative electorate. Twice in the past two years he’s opposed leading Republicans only to see them abandon the party. His underdog picks in a handful of other races are waging surprisingly strong challenges to mainstream candidates viewed by party leaders as more electable.

His Senate Conservatives Fund has steered $622,911 to a half-dozen candidates through the end of March, both through direct contributions and by bundling collections from its 200,000 members. With recent momentum, fundraising is picking up.

DeMint, who says he’d rather stand with a committed minority than a big-tent majority, insists he’s not trying to pick fights. But his political radar often seems sharper than his diplomacy. His Conservatives Fund ranks sitting senators, for example, and gives Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky a grade of 79 out of 100 – a “C” – while DeMint gets a perfect score.

Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the Senate committee to get Republicans elected, said DeMint may be hurting the party’s ability to regain power in Washington.

“My goal is simply to build our numbers so we can provide checks and balances to single-party power here in Washington,” Cornyn said. “I think he has a different goal, which is to try to move the Republican conference in a more conservative direction. If that were possible and we were able to win elections all around the country I would be all for it, but I think as a pragmatic matter we’ve got to nominate Republicans who can get elected in their states.”

DeMint’s combative style is perhaps not what his mother had in mind when she ran the DeMint Academy of Dance and Decorum out of his childhood home after his parents divorced. It’s been welcomed, however, by several conservative candidates.

In Florida, DeMint was the first national Republican to back Marco Rubio in the state’s GOP Senate primary against Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who was considered a shoo-in at the time. DeMint’s support and fundraising for Rubio, a tea party favorite, helped spark a bitter internal fight that ultimately pushed Crist to leave the party last month and run as an independent.

“It kept us alive,” Rubio said of DeMint’s support, including nearly $350,000 in contributions. “Especially early on, it was one of a couple of things that allowed us to survive when very few people thought we had a chance.”

Polls in Florida now find a wide-open race, giving Democrats a legitimate shot at winning.

DeMint also was ahead of his party last year in opposing Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, just before the veteran Republican, facing threats from the right, switched to become a Democrat.

Last week, DeMint broke with McConnell in the Republican leader’s backyard to support tea party favorite Rand Paul in the Kentucky Senate primary. McConnell and other party leaders have backed GOP Secretary of State Trey Grayson. The primary is May 18.

In other cases, DeMint’s silence has been telling. He pointedly refused to aid once-popular Republican Bob Bennett, a three-term senator who was defeated Saturday by conservative voters in Utah’s GOP convention. After Bennett’s loss, DeMint immediately endorsed Mike Lee, one of the two Republicans in a runoff.

DeMint also has declined to endorse Sen. John McCain, the party’s 2008 presidential nominee, who faces a challenge from the right and gets a 77 out of 100 from DeMint’s group despite the Arizona lawmaker’s fight against the pet-project spending known as earmarks.

DeMint, who worked in marketing and served three House terms before being elected to the Senate in 2004, has long been known as a stubborn conservative.

He has supported partially privatizing Social Security and eliminating income taxes in favor of a flat sales tax, and he once suggested that gays and unwed pregnant women should not teach in public schools. He sometimes criticized former President George W. Bush as too soft – calling Bush’s immigration proposal amnesty and seeking to eliminate his $50 billion proposal for global AIDS programs.

DeMint, who rejects suggestions that he wants to challenge McConnell as party leader, argues that Republicans will succeed if they stand by their principles. Although some of his endorsed candidates have faltered – state Sen. Marlin Stutzman lost the Indiana primary last week – most are faring well in polls.

“We’re gonna find out in November,” he said. “I don’t know that I’m always going to be right, but I do know this: I’m not going to sit on the sidelines again. When we tell people we’re the conservative party … I want to make sure we have people sitting in those seats who really mean it.”

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On the Web:

Senate Conservatives Fund: http://www.senateconservatives.com

22 Comments

Filed under Elections, Playing Politics, Political Reform, Radical Rightwing groups, Republicans, Tea Party Movement

22 responses to “New Newt or GOP’s Waterloo?

  1. indypendent

    I know there was a moratorium on posting anything political on this site due to Steven’s recent passing, but I rather suspect Steven would enjoy this article I found on Huffington Post.

    It is about the possible implosion of the GOP led by one of the loyal Tea Party, C-Street holier-than-thou Christians.

    I still remember when this particular senator let the cat out of the bag about the Republicans’ plan to become the Party of NO by saying if they can make health care reform Obama’s Waterloo, that they could bring down Obama.

    • We’re political junkies! A moratorium was an exercise in futility. 😉

      But, I do like talking other topics too, and get the impression we all do. Just shows we’re multi-faceted, and have diverse interests.

      The GOP is currently eating their own. The Democratic Party has done that at times. Right now the Democratic Party has a strong popular leader (that doesn’t mean we all agree with him on everything or that any one of us thinks he is a messiah — that’s nothing more than one of the attacks from the GOP). While we enjoy a strong popular leader, the GOP is searching for one. I see their job as a tough one because someone who meets the narrow definitions of the most radical wings of their party won’t appeal to the more moderate. But they’ll get it figured out. Maybe DeMint will facilitate that.

  2. When the religious people were courted by the GOP, when they were promised issues important to them would be addressed is when I think the GOP began their journey to this point of being irrelevant at the national level. Social conservatives aren’t conservative in the areas that were once important to The Grand Ole Party! I think they’ve taken what was once ‘grand’ out of the party!

    And all this talk about “taking our country back,” sounds to me like they want to take us back to around 1775ish. No female had a vote, slaves were only about 3/5ths human, only white male land owners could make important decisions — others just accepted them.

    When I hear anyone talking about how perfect the Constitution was written without acknowledging how many changes were absolutely necessary, I know they aren’t thinking beyond their own rigid opinions. Maybe their understanding needs a bit of additional knowledge?

    • And those who seem willing to fight to the death for their second amendment rights without even an acknowledgment of other civil rights turn me off completely.

    • Like my right to make decisions for my body! Kinda like other humans do — the male ones. It doesn’t matter to me that they think it’s murder. It simply isn’t any of their business.

      A woman, her doctor and her god.

      No one answers for another when the judgment comes.

  3. My opinion of DeMint is that he is a more skilled politician than some. Promises. Are they empty? Who knows?

  4. indypendent

    Reagan was the first one that put out the welcome mat to the Religious Right because he wanted their votes and support. But I don’t think even Reagan envisioned the vile hatred that some of these Religious Righties seem to have for anyone that dares to question them.

    I am no fan of Reagan but I do think he was at least able to disagree politically with someone but yet would socialize with the other side of the aisle.

    Seems these Rabid Right Republicans will not even do that nowadays.

    Bob Schieffer of CBS Face the Nation recently said that one Congressional leader asked to have his own waiting room before the show because he did not want to share a room with his political opposition from the other party. The particular name of this person was not revealed – and that’s too bad. I think if the media started naming names when they pull this crap – alot of this crap would stop.

    Or maybe I am dreaming?

  5. It is very interesting to me watching the GOP struggles and wondering who they will decide represents their party and what their party stands for.

    When some have been taught their whole lives that being gay is an abomination, sometimes they have to also spend their entire lives hiding who they are, running from it, being ashamed of themselves…

    Then they make that a political platform! Just how many do you think they attract to that kind of thinking? Like sex belongs anywhere in politics — NOT!

  6. If the GOP came out and admitted publicly they have no intention of addressing those social issues, but instead must keep them alive to ensure the votes continue for their side, they would cease to exist. That is, of course, why they stoke the fires of the social issues like gay marriage, abortion, a Constitution based on the Bible.

    • indypendent

      Bingo – give the little lady a Kewpie doll.

      Have you ever asked someone from the Religious Right why Bush and the totally controlled Congress from 2000 to 2006 never even attempted to overturn Roe v Wade?

      Their eyes glaze over and they look at you like you have 3 heads.

      They just don’t get it.

  7. indypendent

    I checked into that Seven Mountains Movement that was mentioned a few days ago. That is pretty scary stuff.

    That is what bothers me about some of these Tea Partiers and Religious Righties. They actually believe that since they are Christian and our country is a Christian nation, that they are the ones in charge. I think that is why these folks yell about wanting to take their country back.

    If anything, our Founding Fathers were totally against a theocracy by implementing the right to freedom of religion.

    But try telling that to a bunch of Rabid Religious Righties that don’t even know that alot of our Founding Fathers were Deists and that is not even Christian-based.

    There is no reasoning with a Rabid Religious Rightie. They are convinced they are right and you are damned to Hell if you even dare to question them. After all, nobody wants to be known as a Jesus Hater do they?

    • It is scary!

      And many devout people who don’t pay much attention (they aren’t political junkies and probably spend their time in very good ways that exemplify their faith) only hear “In God’s name,” “As the Bible teaches,” etc.

      They have no idea of the evil way religion can and is being used!

    • Our founding fathers saw what mixing religion into politics or politics into religion caused — they were careful to separate the two in this new country!

  8. Gun rights have been increased under Democratic majorities, but some still quiver and shake out of the fear that is encouraged to keep them voting right.

  9. indypendent

    Without fear – the Republican Party would have no political weapons.

    Lets face it, they have not got the actual facts or truth on their side – they have got to use fear.

    And with their base being strictly regionally Southern, maybe fear is the best weapon to use? It’s a short word.

    But those Southern States also routinely rank at the bottom of the rankings in education, health care, income, etc.

    But they rank near the top for receiving more federal money than they send in to the government coffers.

    That sounds pretty socialistic to me. But I don’t hear any of them complaining about that government welfare check made out to their name!

  10. indypendent

    You’re right – the Founding Fathers were very careful about not mixing politics and religion.

    Tyranny often comes disguised as a Bible-thumping, flag waving, phoney Patriot humming Yankee Doodle Dandy while they are stomping on the very Constitution they profess to love so much.

  11. indypendent

    ‘and he once suggested that gays and unwed pregnant women should not teach in public schools’
    —-

    And yet this same man had no problem with his governor being an admitted adulterer.

  12. indypendent

    I wonder if it has dawned on these Tea Party loving elected officials that if someone is really sincere about doing what the Tea Party advocates in getting out all incumbents – then the next time Jim DeMint runs for re-election, the Tea Partiers should be loyal little Patriots and vote the incumbent out – even when it is DeMint himself.

    Sounds like these tea partiers did not think through their plan very well, does it?

    • What I’ve seen from most of the tea partiers is they only want to get rid of some incumbents — in races where they disagree with the Republican incumbent but s/he is very electable, they aren’t in opposition. Their goal is ALL Republicans. They’ll support some they find unsavory to keep Democrats out. They may say otherwise, but so far their actions prove their words untrue.

  13. DeMint is quoted in the referenced article as saying, ““We’re gonna find out in November,” he said. “I don’t know that I’m always going to be right, but I do know this: I’m not going to sit on the sidelines again. When we tell people we’re the conservative party … I want to make sure we have people sitting in those seats who really mean it.”

    And his idea of the meaning of ‘conservative’ includes all the social issues that don’t appeal to more moderate voters idea of government. How do those Social Conservatives justify saying they support small government and they want government’s nose in social issues? Wouldn’t it be closer to the truth if they came right out and said they want government involved ONLY where they approve of government being involved. As long as they repeat the silly meme of ‘small government’ they just come off sounding silly and very hypocritical.