WASHINGTON — Sen. Jim DeMint is heading to an early-primary state to huddle with Republican presidential prospects for the second time in five weeks.
Scarcely a month after he was the keynote speaker at an Iowa candidates' forum, DeMint will travel to New Hampshire on Friday for a presidential "Summit on Spending and Job Creation."
Joining the South Carolina Republican in the Granite State will be potential GOP White House aspirants former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Georgia businessman Herman Cain.
DeMint, elected overwhelmingly in November to a second Senate term, said he wasn't weighing a presidential bid.
"I'm not running for president, but I will be working with grass-roots activists across the country to ensure the next Republican nominee has the principles and courage necessary to save our country," DeMint told McClatchy.
DeMint became a Senate kingmaker last year when his Senate Conservatives Fund raised and distributed $6 million to 10 candidates, most of them running against Republican establishment choices in primaries.
Five of DeMint's candidates were elected to the Senate in November, giving him a cadre of like-minded loyalists who want to slash federal spending and significantly reduce the size of government.
DeMint now may be seeking to play the role of presidential kingmaker, promising to place his fundraising clout and celebrity status among GOP activists behind a candidate who meets his ultraconservative standards.
"2012 may be our country's last chance to avoid fiscal collapse, and I'm determined to make sure we have the right candidates for Senate and for president that will fight for freedom instead of the status quo," DeMint said.
Wayne Lesperance, a political science professor at New England College in Henniker, N.H., pooh-poohed DeMint's claims that he has no interest in running for president.
"The minute you set foot in New Hampshire, as far as anyone is concerned, you're running," Lesperance said.
The New Hampshire chapter of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a conservative public policy center, will host the conference on economic policy at a Manchester hotel.
The group also will hold a dinner honoring Ovide Lamontagne, a prominent business lawyer and former conservative gubernatorial candidate.
"Senator DeMint's proven conservative record and long-standing friendship with Ovide Lamontagne make him the ideal person to help honor Ovide and attend this first-in-the-nation event," said Corey R. Lewandowski, the state director of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.
(David Lightman contributed to this article.)
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