Jim DeMint has figured out something important, writes Steve Kornacki on Salon: In today's GOP, you don't need to hold an office in order to have power. When he leaves the Senate and starts running the conservative Heritage Foundation, his "power won't wane at all—and, in fact, might even grow," Kornacki writes. DeMint hasn't had any big legislative projects in the works for a while; his main concern has been building a reputation as an "ideological purist" and influencing Republican primary races, backing many a Tea Party favorite. He can still do that, because he's made himself "a huge player in the insular Republican universe," Kornacki writes. Nowadays, "Republican members of Congress, by and large, take their cues from conservative media, rather than shaping it." Fox News will still be happy to have him on, and his endorsement will still be just as important for "fellow true believers."
On Slate, David Weigel agrees. "DeMint-ism was never about legislating," he writes. "It was about blocking legislation and unwinding current laws. DeMint figured out, correctly, that he could do more good playing the outside game as his acolytes in the Senate played the inside game." None of the 35 bills DeMint introduced became law; "he was a marketer, a recruiter—not a legislator. He never pretended otherwise." And now "the Tea Party, as represented by DeMint, has taken over a tea-and-cookies conservative institution and readied it for guerrilla warfare." Read Weigel's full column here, or Kornacki's here. (Read more Jim DeMint stories.)