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DeMINT summons GOP hopefuls for forum at which he’ll star | McClatchy

September 4, 2011

PALMENTTO FREEDOM FORUM airs on CNN Monday Sept., 5 3:00 EDT 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

DeMint summons GOP hopefuls for forum at which he’ll star

By James Rosen | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, often dubbed Senator Tea Party for his avid national following among GOP activists, is trying to parlay last year’s success in getting conservatives elected to Congress into the role of presidential kingmaker.

It doesn’t hurt that DeMint’s state, South Carolina, will host the Republicans’ first-in-the-South presidential primary early next year.

On Monday, DeMint will demonstrate his clout when he quizzes six Republican White House aspirants on their commitment to slashing government spending, diminishing Washington’s place in Americans’ lives and fighting for a constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget.

It’s a sign of DeMint’s influence that the GOP presidential race’s six top-polling candidates agreed to spend Labor Day with him in South Carolina doing interviews for a chance to land the biggest political job of all. The prize: DeMint’s endorsement in a primary that’s chosen the eventual GOP nominee in every contested White House election going back to Ronald Reagan’s upset win in 1980.

“This is not a bachelor forum,” DeMint told McClatchy. “It’s a forum that will allow them to move beyond talking points and let the people of South Carolina know what they really believe.”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain of Georgia will follow one another onto the stage for one-on-one exchanges with DeMint. The event will be broadcast live statewide.

In 2008, DeMint was a national chairman for Romney’s campaign and touted the former governor’s business background. But eventual GOP nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona won the primary. This year, DeMint said, “I’m just taking a fresh look at all the candidates.”

“Their underlying philosophy has got to reflect constitutional limited government,” he said. “I’m looking for policies that will reflect a devolution of power out of Washington — not just cutting spending, but changing the federal government to a more limited role that can apply to education, energy, health care and other areas.”

His opinion on the candidates matters. DeMint, in an extraordinary show of fundraising clout for a then-first-term senator, collected millions from GOP activists across the country and then disbursed the funds last year to help bring a new generation of outsider conservatives to Washington.

via DeMint summons GOP hopefuls for forum at which he’ll star | McClatchy.

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