Politics & Policy

DeMint Calls Romney a ‘Good Candidate’

Sen. Jim DeMint, whose push for more conservative senate candidates in the 2010 cycle lead to several primary challenges, is open to endorsing Mitt Romney.

“I endorsed Romney last time, and I think he’s a good candidate,” DeMint tells National Review Online today in an office visit. “I’m not going to hold any one or two things against a candidate that they’ve done.  I’ve had some bum votes in my life.”

Instead of a perfect voting record, DeMint is looking for “the ability to inspire and show some courage and I think, take on our own party in some cases.” He calls Romney a “certainly viable” candidate.

But DeMint acknowledged he had also spoken on the phone to other potential GOP candidates.  “I think we’re probably going to have one or two more get into the race who’ll change the dynamics,” he says.  “I’m not inviting anyone in, but I’ve had some calls.”

Nor is he backing down on his position about making signing the “Cut, Cap, Balance” pledge a litmus test for candidates. DeMint, who has said previously that he will not endorse Jon Huntsman (who says he will sign no pledges this election cycle, although he has said he supports a Balanced Budget Amendment) because of his refusal to sign, said he did not have any other litmus tests for candidates.

“I think a balanced budget to me is a make-or-break issue,” he remarks. “It’s a litmus test. Talk is cheap in Washington. There’s a difference between thinking it’s a cute idea and willing to fight to the end to get it.”

He said he didn’t know if Michele Bachmann would eventually decide to sign the “Cut, Cap, Balance” pledge. Bachmann has said she thinks the pledge should include a promise to repeal Obamacare.

“I told [Bachmann] that this is not intended to be the conservative agenda,” DeMint says. “We’ll never repeal Obamacare if we don’t have a balanced budget amendment because that’s going to be the catalyst that makes us move education out of Washington, move a lot of transportation functions out of Washington.

“So I think to say it’s got to have all the list of the things we want on it misses the whole point right now,” he adds.

Speaking about a presidential forum he hopes to host in South Carolina, tentatively around Labor Day, DeMint says he is hoping to create an event where candidates have a chance to explain their positions in detail, without moderators trying to “trick” them or catch them in “gotcha” moments. He anticipates having a panel of interviewers and two of the candidates up on stage at a time. He’s flirting with the idea of allowing candidates to ask each other questions, but is unsure if he will include that in the final format.

He also emphasized his push to encourage South Carolina Republicans to refrain from endorsing until the election was closer. “What I’m afraid of is conservatives will divide their votes in all different directions and the most moderate nominee will win,” he says.

While DeMint isn’t thrilled about the South Carolina legislature’s decision to veto Gov. Nikki Haley’s decision to cut any government funding for the costs associated with the primary election, he said he had advocated a different solution than the one Haley pushed, a “hybrid” fix that would have allowed the state to control the “technical” part of primary voting and included some kind of review that ensured the private donors funding the primary had no influence over the election itself.

Katrina TrinkoKatrina Trinko is a political reporter for National Review. Trinko is also a member of USA TODAY’S Board of Contributors, and her work has been published in various media outlets ...

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