For the past year, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) has clashed with his party’s leadership by endorsing and funding tea party Senate candidates over those favored by the GOP establishment. He’s also publicly accused the leadership of mismanaging the conservative agenda, saying, “The problem in the Republican Party is that the leadership has gone to the left.” This open hostility has led many to speculate that he would challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for the party’s top job in the upper house — something DeMint has repeatedly denied he is interested in doing. But yesterday, DeMint told the Greenville News that while he still has no “plan” to challenge McConnell, he would be open to running for a different leadership position once his tea party conservatives take over the Senate:
Asked by The Greenville News about the likelihood of a run for Senate minority leader, DeMint said it’s “not my plan,” but that he’s open to some kind of elected leadership once 10 to 15 new conservatives – many of them supported by DeMint – join the ranks as he expects.
DeMint, whose endorsements and fundraising have helped boost a cadre of conservatives to primary wins across the country, predicted that he’d be at the fore of top conservative issues in Washington.
“People in South Carolina will see me lead at home and up here, whether or not I seek any elected leadership,” DeMint told The News, adding, “I’ve found that I can be much more effective stopping these bills working independently and with a few other conservatives, but you’ll see after this election. There will probably be 10 or 15 new conservatives in the Senate, and then what happens after that we’ll just have to wait and see.”
As ThinkProgress noted earlier this week, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) — another tea party darling who prides herself on bucking the GOP establishment — recently hinted at a plan to overthrow the House Republican leadership and replace them with true “constitutional conservatives.”
Just hours after DeMint’s comments that he was interested in seeking a GOP leadership position were published, the senator seemed to change his mind, flatly telling reporters, “I’m not running for a leadership position.” DeMint interrupted a Senate candidate he is endorsing to make the proclamation, and later explained that “he is not looking to change the Senate GOP leadership as much as to ‘pull the leadership’ in the right direction.”