Politics & Government

S. Carolina's DeMint is this season's GOP kingmaker

Sen. Jim DeMint over the Fourth of July 2009
Sen. Jim DeMint over the Fourth of July 2009 Tim Dominick/The State/MCT)

WASHINGTON — Months before his own name will be on the South Carolina ballot, Sen. Jim DeMint is doing well at the polls.

Dino Rossi's top-two finish in Washington state's primary Tuesday boosted DeMint's record to 6-2 in Senate primary contests around the country in which he's formally endorsed a candidate.

"If (Rossi) is elected, he will stand up to the big spenders in both parties and help us take our country back," the South Carolina Republican said after Rossi advanced with incumbent Democratic Sen. Patty Murray to the general election campaign.

DeMint is heavily favored to win election to a second Senate term in November. His race has drawn national attention since Alvin Greene, an unemployed veteran, defeated Vic Rawl, a former state judge and legislator, in South Carolina's June 8 Senate Democratic primary.

Greene was indicted last week on charges of showing pornography to a female student in a University of South Carolina computer lab.

DeMint, still in his first term, has a rising national profile among conservative activists thanks to his loud opposition to spending earmarks, an immigration overhaul and the health care plan that President Barack Obama signed into law in March.

DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund has raised $4 million in the current election cycle, more than any other Senate leadership political action committee.

DeMint didn't endorse Rossi until July 29. Aides said his leadership PAC has since contributed $58,000 to the Washington state real estate investor and funded additional direct mail solicitations on Rossi's behalf.

In other Senate Republican primary races, DeMint's PAC has contributed a combined $1.6 million to its endorsed candidates.

Among the largest donations: $421,000 to former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio; $375,000 to local prosecutor Ken Buck in Colorado; $312,000 to former Nevada state legislator Sharron Angle and $217,000 to Salt Lake City lawyer Mike Lee.

The PAC gave $208,000 to Indiana state Sen. Marlin Stutzman and $147,000 to California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore before they became the only DeMint-endorsed candidates to lose their Senate Republican primaries — Stutzman on May 3, and DeVore on June 8.

The Cuban-American Rubio is heavily favored to win Florida's Senate Republican nomination on Tuesday. DeMint already counts his early endorsement of Rubio — 14 months ago, when he trailed Gov. Charlie Crist badly in polls — as a victory because Rubio's subsequent polling surge led Crist to leave the GOP primary and run as an independent in the general election.

DeMint didn't endorse Angle, a Tea Party favorite, until the day after her June 8 Republican primary win, but he's now funneling large sums of money her way.

DeMint badly wants to defeat Angle's general election opponent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The two men have engaged in hand-to-hand political combat on the Senate floor, with DeMint using legislative maneuvers to block Democrats' legislation.

Despite his endorsements elsewhere, DeMint declined to pick a favorite in his own state's hotly contested Republican gubernatorial primary.

Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, another hero among conservative activists and whose star-power eclipses DeMint's, endorsed South Carolina state Rep. Nikki Haley, propelling her to victory in the June 22 Republican primary runoff.

Nationwide, in the three Senate Republican primaries in which Palin and DeMint have both made endorsements, each has picked two winners — Rand Paul in Kentucky for both, Carly Fiorina in California for Palin and Rossi in Washington state for DeMint.

DeMint gloated over Rossi's primary victory in Washington state and his coming general election campaign against Murray.

"Senator Murray is part of the problem in Washington," DeMint said. "She's addicted to pork-barrel spending, and she's a rubber stamp for the liberal policies that have buried our nation under a mountain of debt."


Details on Sen. Jim DeMint's contributions to GOP candidates nationwide


Vote's in: Jim DeMint won big in Tuesday's primaries

Jim DeMint leads rightward shift of GOP candidates nationwide

Sen. DeMint's first term was a doozy. Now he's ready for No. 2

One-year freeze on earmarks fails in Senate, splits GOP

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South Carolina conservative sets himself up as kingmaker

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