Jim DeMint has thrown his lot in with the hyper-conservative tea party movement, backing far-right candidates against party favorites in several key 2010 races. In the process, the South Carolina senator’s picked up a pile of enemies in the party leadership, but he’s also grown his influence. Even moderate Republicans are now looking for DeMint’s endorsement, hoping to stave off primary challengers, and maybe tap into his fundraising prowess.
DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund PAC has become especially powerful, because it’s doling out funds while the National Republican Senatorial Committee sits out of the primaries. “Anything associated with the establishment now is not considered an asset in a Republican race,” he tells Politico. “I’m looking to get a few recruits to shake the place up.” But many in the party are skeptical. “The only one who cares about Jim DeMint’s opinion is Jim DeMint,” says a senior Senate aide.