THE DOOR IS (RE)OPENING WIDER
Conventional political wisdom for the last year in the Palmetto State has held that Jim DeMint – South Carolina’s leading fiscal conservative and hands down the most popular politician in the state – would not seek a third term in the U.S. Senate.
Asked last summer by National Journal if his current term would be his last, DeMint answered in the affirmative.
“Yeah,” he said at the time. “It was not a campaign promise; but that is my plan, that the election last year was my last one. It has always been my plan not to serve more than two terms.”
In a recent story on campaign fundraising by Gina Smith of The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper, however, DeMint’s office left the door to a third term wide open.
“He has said he never intended to run for a third term, but he’s never made a final decision,” a DeMint spokesman told Smith.
Why would DeMint run again? Well, assuming Republicans take control of the U.S. Senate over the coming two election cycles, he would likely be in line for the chairmanship of the powerful U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee.
“That’s worth sticking around for,” one Washington operative told us.
If DeMint does decide to run again it could have a major impact on two other races – the 2014 GOP primaries for governor and U.S. Senate (offices currently held by Nikki Haley and Lindsey Graham, respectively).
Numerous candidates have been rumored to be considering one or both of those races, including S.C. Sen. Tom Davis, U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, State Treasurer Curtis Loftis, U.S. Rep. Tim Scott and Attorney General Alan Wilson.
Still more are eyeing the 2016 race – including S.C. Reps. Jimmy Merrill and Murrell Smith.
Obviously the first determining factor in this game of musical chairs isn’t DeMint’s decision – but whether Mitt Romney is able to defeat Barack Obama in November. If he is, there’s a good chance that Haley would be in line to receive an ambassadorship or some other post.
If Romney doesn’t win – or if Haley is true to her word about staying put – then all bets are off.
Personally, we hope DeMint does run again. He’s as reliable a fiscal conservative vote as you’re going to find and we’d like to see him take that ideological orientation to a higher energy level as the leader of a major committee.
We also think that such a decision would force other fiscal conservatives to focus on taking out Graham and Haley, both of whom continue to discharge their duties in a manner inconsistent with the best interests of the taxpayers they represent.