Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) may be taking over leadership of the conservative Heritage Foundation to use the position as a launching pad for a presidential bid in 2016. That’s according to grass-roots conservative stalwarts, reporting via David A. Patten of Newsmax on Friday. Direct-marketing pioneer Richard Viguerie is among key grass-roots conservatives engaged in speculation about what DeMint’s surprise move really means.
Regarding DeMint’s agenda, Viguerie told Newsmax last week, “If he wants to, this opens up a lot more opportunities for him. I think there’s a decent chance that he’ll be a serious presidential candidate in four years.”
Viguerie referred to DeMint’s acceptance of the Heritage offer as “an intermediate step”.
Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer told Newsmax, “I know Jim DeMint, and he is not going anywhere. I have always thought he would make a great president, and I have always thought he should make a run. …I think this is probably a step in that direction, and I hope it is. Because he’s not just a senator, he’s a statesman.”
According to Ryan Hecker, COO of Freedomworks for America, DeMint “was one of the few people…in 2010, to endorse candidates that were not the establishment candidates.”
DeMint is widely credited in Republican circles for an influx of strong young conservatives elected to Congress.
“One of the mistakes I think the Republican Party made the last two years,” DeMint has said, “is trying to make Obama the issue without sharing with America bold reform ideas that get people inspired to get behind us.”
DeMint’s leadership at Heritage will make him “the instant front-runner among most conservatives” if he tosses his hat in the ring in 2016 according to Viguerie. Viguerie has referred to DeMint as “the gold standard” for grass-roots conservatives in Congress. DeMint is not dismissing the idea.
March 2011, DeMint squelched rumors that he might consider throwing his hat in the ring, after spawning that very speculation by addressing a conference of conservatives in Iowa. Last month, in an interview with McClatchy Newspapers, DeMint backed off his previous, unequivocal insistence that he had no interest in running for president.
“As president of Heritage he will be spending maybe three, four, five days a week on the road, talking to major donors and to the conservative grass-roots,” Viguerie said of DeMint. “So he will add a whole new dimension to his base of support up there. He will be building relationships with hundreds of thousands of conservative activists and donors.”
At Heritage, DeMint will enjoy at his disposal an organization with over 250 employees and an $80 million annual budget.