It has been no secret that many of Sen. Jim DeMint’s Republican colleagues have been unhappy with his willingness to back radical candidates to challenge, and in some cases defeat, establishment-backed candidates and to openly attack them for failing to embrace his ultra-right-wing agenda.
Of course, DeMint’s ideological zealotry has made him a hero to the Religious Right and the Tea Party Movement. But now comes word that DeMint is privately assuring his Republican colleagues that he will not support any candidates who might decide to offer a primary challenge to a sitting senator:
South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint is privately reassuring his Republican colleagues up for reelection that he won’t recruit or endorse any primary opponent against them, vowing to raise more than $10 million aimed mainly at taking down Democratic incumbents.
In a letter obtained by POLITICO, the tea party favorite appears to be taking steps to soothe post-election tensions with his GOP colleagues, including some who say his political tactics have been counterproductive.
At the same time, however, the South Carolina conservative’s latest move could disappoint some of his most fervent grassroots supporters who are preparing to line up tea-party-backed candidates in states like Indiana, Utah and Maine where Republican senators have become targets of the right wing.
“First, despite rumors to the contrary, I want to assure you that I will not recruit or support primary challengers to incumbent Republicans, and you can also be assured I will support all of our Republican nominees for the Senate,” he wrote in the letter he sent Wednesday.
Given that there are several Senators up for re-election in 2012 who are regularly derided as RINOs, this move by DeMint seem likely to anger Tea Party activists … and, in fact, Richard Viguerie is already declaring that “other conservatives cannot, and will not, give these out-of-touch Republicans a pass”:
“Senator DeMint has repeatedly taken heat from establishment Republicans for his strong conservative stances and support for the tea party movement, and no doubt feels tremendous pressure from his colleagues to fall in line with the GOP leadership.
“All small-government, constitutional conservatives are deeply in Senator DeMint’s debt for his sacrifices, work, and leadership in behalf of our cause.
“However, four or five of the ten Republican Senators up for re-election in 2012 need to be voted out, and if Sen. DeMint feels that he cannot involve himself in those primary races, then it is up to grassroots conservatives and tea partiers to provide the leadership to replace RINO Republicans or ineffective Republicans with effective and principled conservatives.”