Interview with Senator Jim DeMint

Interview with Senator Jim DeMint

By John King, USA - June 17, 2011

KING: Also speaking to that (INAUDIBLE) gathering in New Orleans was South Carolina GOP Senator Jim DeMint a man many on the right wish would join the 2012 presidential race. Senator DeMint is with us now.

Senator, let's get straight to that. You've heard some of the grumbling. You're hearing it there in New Orleans. You've heard it from your friends in the conservative movement. They look at this field and they kind of say it could be better.

In your hometown tomorrow, Greenville, South Carolina, there will be a "Draft Jim DeMint" rally.

Will you run for president?

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: No. I have no plans to run for president. And, frankly, the more I see of the Republican field, the better I feel about it. I think it takes a while for candidates to develop and get their footing, and we may have some new folks join the race, too.

So, it's too early to say it's a weak field. I think we'll end up with a good candidate and any of them would be better than what we've got in the White House right now.

KING: Is your no a Shermanesque no? You've said in the past, you'll listen to these people out of good manners and common courtesy. Is it emphatic, pour the cement no?

DEMINT: Well, I have no plans to run for president. I'm never going to rule anything out in life, because most of what I'm doing now, I never intended to do. So -- but I don't plan to run for president and have made no arrangements to do that. So, it's getting a little late to jump in, if you haven't made plans.

So, I'm looking forward to another candidate and interviewing candidates. Hopefully, they'll take some strong stands on things like passing a balanced budget amendment. I think by the fall or later in the year, we'll know which one has the courage to be the next president.

KING: Now, you were with Governor Romney back in 2008. Is the fact that you're still shopping in this cycle a sign that you would not endorse him? That you've moved away from him?

DEMINT: I'm completely open at this point. I haven't ruled anyone out or anyone in.

KING: We had a big debate on Monday night up in New Hampshire. And someone who impressed a lot of people at that debate was Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. She's also speaking at the meeting you're at there in New Orleans, of course.

I want you to listen, Michele Bachmann, like Senator Jim DeMint, is a favorite of the Tea Party movement. She says the Tea Party movement gets the bad rap sometimes. Listen to this from the debate.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Tea Party is really made up of disaffected Democrats, independents, people who have never been political a day in their life, people who are libertarians, Republicans. It's a wide swath of America coming together. I think that's why the left fears it so much, because they're people who simply want to take the country back. They want the country to work again.


KING: When you look at Michele Bachmann, do you see a movement candidate, someone who represents the Tea Party but maybe has a ceiling, can only win a slice of the Republican Party? Or do you see a potential president?

DEMINT: No, she understands the Tea Party movement, because what she just said is exactly true. I've been in a lot of Tea Party rallies.

And these folks don't care anything about Republicans or Democrats. They want to save their country. They're afraid about this debt and spending and intrusion by the government.

And so, what's happening is the country is uniting around the issues that are dividing Washington.

KING: Well, what about Congressman Bachmann specifically? I ask you and when you look at her, do you see a potential president? Or do you see -- and this happens in both sides, on both parties every few cycles. Dennis Kucinich was an anti-war candidate in the Democratic Party last time. Nobody viewed him as a potential nominee.

Do you view her as a Tea Party movement candidate? Or do you view her as a potential nominee, a Republican with broad support and a potential president?

DEMINT: She's certainly a potential nominee. I don't think anyone should rule her out.

She is a very smart person, demonstrated a lot of courage. And so, I haven't ruled her out or in. But she's a great addition to the field. And I think, one way or the other, she's going to move the field in the right direction for our party, because she understands that grassroots movement that I think is going to make the difference in the next election.

KING: As you know, the Indiana governor, Mitch Daniels, decided not to run for president. He had talked about a truce on social issues, saying those fiscal issues you just mentioned were so important, Republicans should put disagreements or even put emphasis on issues like abortion and gay rights on the back burner. He decided not to run.

Also deciding not to run was the Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. He spoke to your meeting today. Listen to what he said. I want to get your sense of what you think he's trying to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R), MISSISSIPPI: Don't get hung up on purity. In politics, purity is a loser.


BARBOUR: As I say, our candidate won't be perfect. But in this business, it is unity that wins elections.


KING: I know Governor Barbour, Senator. One of the things he's worried about is that if the Tea Party activists, for example, don't get everything they want. If the social issues are not talked about a lot in the primary campaign because people are focusing on the economy, that some Republicans, some Tea Party activists will sit on their hands and stay home.

Is the governor right?

DEMINT: Well, purity -- there's no purity in politics. So, I don't think you have to worry about that.

I hope he's not talking about principle because unless we have principles, Americans are not going to trust us as Republicans. So, I think what you're going to see is that the fiscal issues are bringing people together at Tea Party rallies and grassroots rallies across the country. There are people there who feel strongly about some of the social issues. There are some who don't or more libertarian.

KING: You laid down a pretty strong marker in your speech. I want you to listen here to where you essentially warn the party if it doesn't hold firm on those fiscal issues you're talking about. Let's listen.


DEMINT: If you want to lose those people who elected us last November, if you want to deflate that new base that believes that they have the power to change things, if you want to destroy the conservative movement in America and push a third party candidacy at all levels, then fold on this one.


KING: You're talking about the debt ceiling vote there. Define fold, Senator. What must you get?

DEMINT: There are three things. And there's a pledge that's on the Internet, there are going to be millions of grassroots folks behind it. The Web site is And what we're demanding is that we cut spending immediately, we cap spending in the way over the long haul that takes us towards a balanced budget and we pass a balanced budget amendment that stops us from spending more than we're bringing in.

Those are the three things that need to be the demands of the Republican Party. We should not allow that debt ceiling increase unless those three things happen first.

KING: And if the balanced budget amendment vote is not part of the package, would you walk away? Would you tell people, vote for a third party? Would you even help organize a third party?

DEMINT: No, I'm not interested in a third party. But I think it's a danger if we fold on something that 70 percent of Americans think we need to do. And they believe we need to balance the budget.

Now, that's not a Republican or conservative issue, that's an American issue. More than anything, it's a common sense issue.

KING: One of the leading voices of the conservative moment in America, Senator Jim DeMint -- appreciate your time tonight, sir.

DEMINT: Thank you.

KING: Thank you.


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