Perhaps no Republican politician other than Sarah Palin has seen his star rise higher in the past two years than South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint. Once little-known outside his home state, DeMint has emerged as a power player within the Tea Party movement, providing pivotal endorsements to upstarts Christine O'Donnell and Joe Miller, and sparking speculation about his political future.
DeMint, for his part, has said he is not interested in a White House bid, a claim he reasserted on Fox News last night, telling Greta Van Susteren he has "no intentions, no plans" to challenge Barack Obama in 2012. So, what does he have in mind instead? Or, more precisely, what doesn't he have in mind? A sampling of theories from around the web.
Count Him Out For 2012 Seriously. Walking back a professed lack of interest in the presidency is a political tradition, but the The Hill's Michael O'Brien believes DeMint's comments leave him little room to maneuver. While conceding the denial is "not exactly Shermanesque," O'Brien believes the latest proclamation is "more concrete than the previous statements the South Carolina senator's made about a bid to challenge President Obama two years from now." That DeMint also took the "unusual step of heaping praise on some of the challengers he might face if he were to run, including the relatively centrist New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie," is yet more evidence he is disinclined to seek the presidency.
- Republicans Wary? Talking Points Memo's Christina Bellatoni downplays the theory that an influx of Tea Party endorsed candidates could give DeMint the firepower to challenge Mitch McConnell for Majority Leader, writing that DeMint's success with the Tea Party doesn't translate to his dealings with fellow Senators. "DeMint's colleagues recognize that, while he may be popular with the tea party crowd and his own base, he's not considered a legislator with heft among the Republican Senators who vote for their own leadership team," writes Bellatoni. The math, she continues, just doesn't add up for DeMint to oust McConnell. "Even if all of DeMint's picks win and supported him next year for a new position, there wouldn't be enough votes to overtake McConnell."
- A Specific Plan Even if he could beat McConnell, The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder argues a leadership position holds no upside for DeMint. "By definition," writes Ambinder, "you lose the base, because by position, you're a conciliator, a wheeler and dealer, a reconciler, a deliberator." So what's DeMint's end game? Ambinder says it's simple. "He wants to pull the party to the right. I think he wants to be vice president down the line for a more traditional GOP candidate like Tim Pawlenty or Mitt Romney."
- Missed Opportunity? National Review's Rich Lowry thinks DeMint has made a mistake by apparently closing the door on a 2012 bid. After all, he writes, "someone is going to tap into the sentiment we've seen in the GOP primaries this year in the 2012 nomination fight. If Palin doesn't run, that 'from the Republican wing of the Republican party' slot is going to be up for grabs (and highly sought after)." His stock might never be this high again.