With the resignation of Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., some political figures might expect the Senate Republican conference to become more moderate, but early word from the young lawmakers DeMint has befriended (and sometimes financed) suggests that won’t happen.
“We don’t need a lot of Jim DeMint disciples,” former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said during the 2010 election cycle. “As soon as they get here, we need to co-opt them.” But the DeMint disciples seem disinclined to forget their roots.
“Senator DeMint is one of the main reasons why I’m in the U.S. Senate,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in a statement today. “[W]e’re excited for the new opportunity that he has to lead the limited government, free enterprise movement from outside the Capitol at the Heritage Foundation. We’re just excited about that and look forward to working with him in his new capacity.” DeMint backed Rubio over the more established Gov. Charlie Crist, R-Fla., who eventually joined the Democratic Party after his Senate campaign defeat.
“He leaves the Senate with more constitutional conservatives than when he came, and those of us he helped are forever grateful,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said. “Because of Senator DeMint’s tireless efforts there now is a significant voice for Liberty in the U.S. Senate.” DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund donated to Paul’s 2010 Senate bid, which saw him win a Republican primary against a candidate endorsed by Dick Cheney and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
It’s a sign of DeMint’s influence that both Rubio and Paul are already attracting buzz for a 2016 presidential run.
Another DeMint favorite from the 2010 elections, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, made a similar point. “For too long, [DeMint] was a movement unto himself in the Senate, keeping the torch lit for free-market principles and limited government,” Lee said in a statement today. “Jim is a friend and mentor, and I plan to honor his time in the Senate by continuing the push for individual liberty and restoring constitutional government.”
Sen.-elect Ted Cruz, R-Texas, whom DeMint supported this year, added that his move to the Heritage Foundation is “a sign of the conservative movement’s strength.”
DeMint even has admirers among freshmen in the House of Representatives.
“I congratulate Senator DeMint on his new position as President of The Heritage Foundation and thank Ed Feulner for his years of service,” Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., said in a statement. “It’s difficult to overstate the impact of both men on the conservative movement and the country. Their leadership, standing firm while advocating for conservative principles of limited government, fiscal discipline and traditional moral values, has become invaluable, especially during the last few years as government has grown exponentially and spending has exploded to record levels.”
Over the last two elections, DeMint helped four other candidates win a seat in the Senate: Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.; Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.; Sen.-elect Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; Sen.-elect Deb Fischer, R-Neb.