Interview with Senator Jim DeMint

Interview with Senator Jim DeMint

By John King, USA - September 15, 2010

KING: Republican Senator DeMint of South Carolina has the golden touch, endorsing conservatives who in most cases have turned into winners. Christine O'Donnell being the latest example last night in Delaware. Some Republicans aren't happy. One Republican source telling CNN they're frustrated with Senator DeMint because in their view he pushes purity over the practical. Senator DeMint joins us now to go one on one. How do you answer that point among your colleagues? You've heard it throughout the primary season, that you're a guy who wants conservatives who think like you at all costs, even if, your critics would say, the nominee is someone one who can't win.

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: My critics always seem to be these anonymous people that don't talk to me directly. I haven't heard that from my colleagues and I'm certainly not interested in purity in the party.

KING: Let me help our viewers understand a bit more about you because more and more people around the country are hearing about you. Is it your view, then, that Jim DeMint would rather be in the minority than to, say, elect a Mike Castle in Delaware or a Charlie Crist in Florida who you view as too prone to deal making? Would you rather be in the minority than in the majority with Republicans like that?

DEMINT: I came into the Senate with 55 Republicans. A strong majority. Majority of Republicans in the house. Bush in the white house. We spent too much. We borrowed too much. We lost the faith of the American people. And we got thrown out. So there's no need in focusing on the numbers if we don't have any principles to back it up. Again, it's not about purity. It's about pretty commonsense ideas now that I think are right at the mainstream of where America is. We can't keep spending our way into prosperity, growing the government. We can't keep taking over auto industry and the health care industry. These things have Americans alarmed. So it's not about the trivial political labels of moderate or conservative or liberal. It's about survival or bankruptcy right now in our country.

KING: I want you to listen. Hear the voice of someone who knows you well when it comes to Christine O'Donnell. Karl Rove has worked on many conservative campaigns over the years. I want you to listen to Rove's take on Christine O'Donnell.


KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: It does conservatives little good to support candidates who, at the end of the day, while they may be conservative in their public statements, do not advance the characteristics of rectitude and truthfulness and sincerity and character that the voters are looking for. And we'll see how she can answer these questions. She didn't answer them thus far.


KING: You hear Karl Rove. He thinks by helping Christine O'Donnell get the nomination you may have denied the Republicans a chance for a Senate majority.

DEMINT: Well, Christine was going to win, with or without me. I just wanted her to know I was behind her. She's saying the same things that I'm saying. I think Karl's comments are very unfortunate. Christine's been maligned by millions of dollars, a lot of ads that misrepresent who she really is. The fact is Christine has not been on the government payroll like many here in Washington. And she has struggled, like many Americans, but she is a great person. I think she's going to be a great candidate. I think the more people in Delaware get to know her, the most likely they are to vote for her.

KING: Help us understand what happens post election. Let's say several of these candidates win. What happens in the Republican conference come January, when Joe Miller, the tea party favorite coming out of Alaska, he told me a couple of weeks a look, we can't afford social security, that should be a states rights program. What happened when he says, Jim, how do I get an amendment on the floor to do away with social security for future generations? DEMINT: Social security is a promise we have to keep. As Joe has said, people have paid for it. We don't need to change anything for people, particularly those over 55. But he's saying the same thing I am. This Congress has been spending social security dollars that should be saved. And if we're going to take money from people's paycheck for their retirement, we need to save it for their retirement instead of spend it. We can work together on that. The first thing that's going to happen after this election is there's going to be a moratorium on earmarks that Republicans helped to pass. Because we cannot work for the national interest if our focus is always on self- serving parochial politics, taking bacon back home so we can get a press release. I think once we get rid of that conflict of interest, we can focus on fixing our tax code, fixing social security, repealing Obama care, and balancing our budget.

KING: Will you help Mitch McConnell if he says, Jim, I need your help convincing these guys that, yes, I know they're principled, but every now and then we got to be pragmatists?

DEMINT: Mitch is already a good leader and I support him. I just want folks that will help us move the country in the right direction. In the Senate, we tend to move to the lowest common denominator in our party. If we have four or five people voting with Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, it's hard to show the country we're an alternative to that direction. So I think after this election, you're going to have some Republicans who represent mainstream America and are going to vote for those limited government ideas that America's crying out for right now.

KING: And does what you just said raises the question, what about Senate Republican incumbents, in the next cycle, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, two year, three years down the line, would you support a conservative challenger to them?

DEMINT: We need to see what happens after 2010. I want to work with all my Republican colleagues. We need to make sure that Americans have good choices of people who are focusing on our constitutional responsibilities. Frankly, I don't think we can, if most of the year we're working on 10,000 earmarks back home. So that's obviously a big priority for me. I don't think we can serve the interests of a nation this concept of limited government if every Congressman and senator thinks they need to get all of these pork barrel projects for their home state.

KING: Let me ask you lastly, a lot of people look at what you've done in the past several months, moving around the country, raising money, helping these conservative, and say if he wasn't thinking about it six months ago, there's no way DeMint is not thinking about running for president now.

DEMINT: I'm not thinking past 2010. I have no interest in running for president right now.

KING: Right now? How about in 2011, 2012?

DEMINT: I have no plans to run for president. I'm focusing on my job here and my own re-election.

KING: Senator Jim DeMint, South Carolina, we appreciate your time, sir.

DEMINT: Thank you.


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