Jim DeMint May Reconsider Not Running for GOP Nomination

Politics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 1, 2011   |   10:28AM   |   Washington, DC

Sen. Jim DeMint, a pro-life Republican from South Carolina, says he is possibly reconsidering his decision not to seek the Republican nomination for president. DeMint had previously indicated multiple times he would not run for the GOP nod.

In March, DeMint, a prominent pro-life conservative, ruled out running for president and a spokesman for him said he is definitely not seeking the GOP nomination. Matt Hoskins, spokesman for the Senate Conservatives Fund, DeMint’s political action committee, told the Washington Post that, instead of seeking the presidential nod, DeMint will focus on supporting conservative candidates for Congress as he did during the 2010 election cycle.

“He’s said all along that he isn’t running for President and his role in the primary is to encourage the candidates to embrace conservative principles,” Hoskins confirmed.

But, now, DeMint says he is flirting with the idea of running because some conservatives who don’t like any of the current crop of candidates for president are urging him to get in the race. DeMint told The Hill that he will discuss the presidential race with his wife and family and will pray about whether or not to run — though he insisted he has no current plans to run.

“It’s humbling and out of respect, my wife and I have talked about it,” DeMint said late last week of a possible White House bid. “Out of respect for the people who have asked us to think about this, that’s what we’re going to do. I don’t want to imply that I’m changing in mind, but I want to consider what all these folks are doing.”

“It would take an extraordinary set of circumstances for me to get in. I’ve learned not to rule out anything in life,” he said.

UPDATE:  Later today, Matt Hoskins, spokesman for the DeMint group Conservatives Senate Fund, “denied the South Carolina senator is exploring whether he should run for president,’ according to Hotline, saying “the Republican lawmaker was just being respectful to those who have encouraged him to seek the GOP nomination when he said he was now looking at a bid.” “Nothing has changed,” Hoskins said. “He’s not running for president.” The senator was simply “being respectful to everyone who wants him to run,” the spokesman said. “His heart is in the Senate.”

Richard Viguerie, a longtime conservative fundraiser and activist, told The Hill he has been actively spearheading a move to draft DeMint.

“I’ve asked him about the presidential thing twice in the last five or six weeks,” Viguerie said. “I think he’s giving it serious consideration. Hopefully this will push him over the line and give him the encouragement that there would be a strong base of support. He would be the dominant movement conservative leader. He would be the front-runner overnight.”

DeMint endorsed Romney in 2008 but is well-known for supporting conservative candidates in hotly-contested Republican Senate and congressional races and raised millions for elected officials like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and some candidates who failed to win election but were popular with conservatives. During the 2010 election cycle, DeMint supported pro-life Senate candidates like Utah’s Mike Lee and Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, but other DeMint-supported candidates lost, including Ken Buck in Colorado and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware

DeMint also earned himself praise among fiscal conservatives for standing up to Republican Party leaders over earmarks and spending in Congress. That would help him with grassroots activists but hurt his prospects with establishment Republicans and big money donors.

DeMint is pro-life, but many of the current or expected Republican candidates are pro-life as well — including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, businessman Herman Cain, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Rep. Ron Paul, and potential candidates Sarah Palin, the former vice-presidential candidate and Alaska Gov, and Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota.

With DeMint not running for the presidency, South Carolina, which has not received as much attention as the third presidential state in the primary election process, will likely be more in play. But a DeMint bid would greatly shake up the current thinking among Republican candidate vying for votes in the third presidential battleground state. John McCain won South Carolina in 2008 after a victory in New Hampshire propelled his campaign ahead of Mike Huckabee, the Iowa winner, and Mitt Romney, who won some caucus states but did not win in any of the big three early contests.