Thursday, January 27, 2011

Advisers: DeMint might run in 2012

Earlier today, The Iowa Republican reported that Jim DeMint was headed to Iowa, and now Peter Hamby says that some of the South Carolina Senator's advisers are suggesting he might run for president.

"I think that you can read into it that he sees he has a role in the process and he sees he hasn't completely shut the door," said one DeMint adviser asked about the Iowa foray.

DeMint currently sees his role in the 2012 process, the adviser said, as "setting the bar high" for the presidential contenders when it comes to advocating for a small government agenda.

"He hasn't completely shut the door on running, and if there was a situation where there is a massive void in the group of candidates, who knows what would happen?," said the adviser, who was quick to caution that there is only a five percent chance his boss will run.

Since it's very applicable to the story and moment, I'm reposting an entry I wrote from September 19, 2010 that suggested why and how DeMint might be positioning himself for a run.

And it all begins with "Churchill/Reagan."

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Last week, Jim DeMint listed some '12 prospects that intrigued him, but finished by saying that what he really wanted was a combination of Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan.

And today, he said the same thing on CNN's State of the Union.

So it looks like this could become his standard response, and it might be a smart one. First, it's funny and deflects attention, but more importantly, it lets him answer the 2012 question by not answering it (a dynamic everyone tries to get right).

Unlike with the top prospects, time hasn't established a tacit agreement between DeMint and the media that, yeah, he's going to run but can't announce it yet. Right now, everyone actually is genuinely intrigued by his ambition.

The second reason it's important is that it lets him set an artificially high bar, so he doesn't have to commit to a particular candidate.

If you notice, on both Fox and CNN, he finishes with the Churchill/Reagan combo after listing the usual set of possibilities. It's clear he's implying that he's somewhat dissatisfied, and it's clear that he's been dissatisfied for awhile.

He endorsed Mitt Romney in the 2008 election, but has been hesitant to imply he might again, saying in March: "I want to look and see who else steps up to the plate."

In another interview that same month, he said "some of us were talking about Mitch Daniels"; then said that Jeb Bush would "probably be the best on the list" if he didn't have the Bush name.

That leads us to last week and today when he gave special attention to... Chris Christie. Yeah, Christie's the flavor of the month with conservatives, but by DeMint's standards, he's probably not true-red enough.

So that's a lot of names; yet DeMint hasn't committed to any, or even shown a particular affinity for one. In fact, more often than not, he seems to be throwing out names with caveats.

Yeah, Mitt's great, but let's see who else emerges. Jeb would be the best, but he has a tough last name. And you can imagine the problems DeMint might have with the others.

So let's see if he continues answering "Churchill/Reagan". Haley Barbour jokingly said you could measure his ambition by his waist size. This is one way you might be able to judge DeMint's.