While former Alaska Governor, Fox News media personality and Twitterer galore Sarah Palin has caused a splash with her high profile endorsements of Mama Grizzlies and Papa Bears, her record, so far, hasn't been anything to brag about. Meanwhile, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina as The State put it seems to have "the Midas touch." He's 6 and 2 overall with some of those six wins knocking off big name GOP establishment picks. If DeMint were a big game hunter, you might say he's the RINO killer.
It's true that nationwide, in the three US Senate Republican primaries in which both Palin and DeMint made endorsements, each has picked two winners — Rand Paul in Kentucky for both, Carly Fiorina in California for Palin and Dino Rossi in Washington for DeMint — but DeMint is quietly amassing key wins in other races where Palin didn't make an endorsement. While the Palin endorsed Carly Fiorina did wallop Chuck DeVore in the high profile California GOP Senate primary, DeMint has now returned the favor as his pick in Washington trounced the Palin-backed Clint Didier.
Moreover, candidates that Palin supported in Senate races in Kansas, Wyoming and now Washington state lost their primaries despite her high-profile endorsements. Most embarrassing was the loss by Karen Handel who fell short in her runoff contest against Rep. Nathan Deal for Georgia governor just a day after Palin flew to Atlanta for a last minute appearance. Hopes of putting Handel over the top were dashed. Instead, Rep. Deal, who was backed by Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich, eked out a narrow win.
Now, Alaska's Senate primary on Tuesday is shaping up as another embarrassing defeat in her own backyard. Senator Lisa Murkowski is expected to dispatch the challenger Palin has endorsed in the Republican contest proving that the Murkowski dynasty still rules the roost in the Last Frontier. In New Hampshire and Maryland, Palin-backed candidates also seem headed for defeat.
DeMint, however, is riding high having backed Marco Rubio in Florida early on. His endorsement of the former Speaker of the Florida House 14 months ago when he was trailing Governor Charlie Crist badly has proved both pivotal and prescient. The Cuban-American Rubio rode the Tea Party wave and blessed with a $421,000 infusion of cash from DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund PAC crested in the polls. As Crist faded, he was forced to leave the GOP to run as an independent. Score one for DeMint with bonus points for shooting a RINO.
DeMint publicly backed Rand Paul, the libertarian Tea Party darling, on May 5 — a day after US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed Paul’s GOP primary opponent, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson. When the dust settled in that race, DeMint bagged his second RINO and bonus points for putting a shiner on McConnell in his home state.
The conservative South Carolinian also caused a buzz in the Beehive State. After Senator Bob Bennett was eliminated from the nominating process at the Utah State Nominating Convention, DeMint endorsed Mike Lee. DeMint's endorsement for Lee was delivered at the convention through a video message that was played for the delegates before they cast their votes on the final ballot between Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater. So far, DeMint's PAC has contributed $217,000 to Lee who faces Utah Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission Chairman Sam Granato in the general election.
Another contrarian pick by DeMint came in Colorado where he backed Ken Buck over the John McCain and establishment pick Jane Norton, another RINO hit. DeMint's PAC, by the way, sent $375,000 Buck's way.
While DeMint didn’t endorse Nevada's Sharron Angle, a Tea Party favorite, until the day after her June 8 Republican primary win, he has now made up for that by contributing $312,000 to her campaign.
With these endorsements and campaign cash, DeMint has now quietly positioning himself as the de facto leader of the conservative wing of the GOP. Whether the Republicans take back the Senate or not, it's likely that come January Senator DeMint will be in a leadership role. The conservative website Red State is pushing for DeMint as the next Republican Conference Chair arguing that he is "tough as nails, and knows that the best compromise is getting the other side to concede." Red State finds such a development to be "pure bliss."
Further down the line, Senator DeMint who will win re-election to a second term in the Fall in a cakewalk — 70 percent is not out of the question — has to be seen as a viable Vice Presidential candidate. He'll also play a decisive role come the 2012 South Carolina primary where his choice may end up as the GOP nominee.