Editor's note: Sen. Jim DeMint today shared his thoughts on the 2012 presidential election today during a Washington Examiner editorial board meeting. Read the transcript below:
Q: Last night Senator Rubio endorsed Mitt Romney on Hannity. You’ve said Romney is a true conservative. Endorse?
DeMint: Well I’ve said I don’t question his conservative credentials. And I am not going to endorse. I just want to stop the beating. If the candidates were selling a vision of America its fine to keep it going, but now its deteriorated into name calling and we need to get onto focussing on Obama. But I think Romney is um instinctively not necessarily a political conservative, he is instinctively a problem solver. And I think we’ve seen some pretty good conservatives like Reagan take that same journey, where they were not necessarily conservative but the more they spoke about it, wrote about it, the more solid they got.
And when you have a conversation with Romney like I did last week, you realize that the last four years have been very clarifying. And his well developed second language now is conservative thought and limited government. And a pragmatic conservatism in the sense that he understands the problem with the debt and the potential problem with our monetary system. And I think he’s got a good grasp on the problem. So from a pragmatic standpoint he knows that we have to eliminate some agencies and make some pretty serious changes.
So just talking to him reinforced that this is a man who understands the problem, and I don’t question his character. He has demonstrated leadership and success in all areas of his life.
And all the other candidates I like. Rick’s been a friend of mine. He was an ally on Social Security reform on personal accounts. And I’ve told all the candidates that while Ron Paul is not going to be our president, there is a lot of common ground with constitutional limited government, individual liberty, with conservative and libertarians. We need to bring those together under the Republican umbrella. Ron Paul makes a lot of sense on some aspects of our monetary system that we need to listen to ‘cause I frankly think that that is a danger that may even be greater than our debt.
Q: Senator if I could jump back to the presidential race, you sound more resigned to Romney at the top of the ticket. I wonder if having him at the top of the ticket might be an impediment to your chief goal which is to get a conservative senate.
First, its not resigned, I'm going to feel good if its Romney or Santorum or whatever, I think you're going to see that Obama in the White House is a great unifying factor, I think you could pull somebody off the street and nominate him and you're going to see some excitement. But I think that all of these candidates have made their case, become better candidates, its been a long grueling process, they survived it. So I'm going to be excited whoever it is, so my responses last week were not necessarily trying to target one candidate, because I've said I could be excited about all of them.
But I'm not exited about having a good president, frankly you could put Ronald Reagan in the White House right now, and if Harry Reid is majority leader, its just a waste of a good president. That's why its so important to me to tell everyone, "Hey folks, the president is important but really its the Senate stupid, (laughing) It's the Senate, the Senate has been the black hole of good ideas ever since I came to Congress, even when we had the majority. It was just the club that took on the bacon. We're close to changing that and if we get a few more solid conservatives if we have the majority, then the next president might actually get some good legislation.
Q: Senator you mentioned that the Tea Party would look a little different this year than 2010. What are some of the signs that are different?
Well first the press has pretty much taken "Tea Party" as a derogatory term, because every time I show up somewhere, its a Tea Party meeting even if it has nothing to do with the Tea Party. I'm a Tea Party senator when in fact I've been the same for 12-13 years and so, they use that because they try and marginalize these folks and so I think that a lot of them are operating under another name, like Freedomworks or Club for Growth or whatever, so I think that you'll see them more organized as far as getting out the vote, that's what when I travel around and I'm speaking with them that that's what they appear to be doing and talking about, organizing, getting lists, trying to direct the Republican party instead of vice versa, they're not interested in joining the Republican party, they're trying to change it and that's really helpful in some ways and I think that you've seen some of the people that sign up to run in the Republican primaries, its not just the tea party and the establishment sometimes we have two or three tea party. So its made it a little more complicated, some of these primaries are not as clear as they were last time, so I don't think you're going to see as many Republicans run who are any tea party.
No one is going to run, you don't see anybody coming up here looking for the endorsement from the Senate Republican committee because they want to run in that genre, not necessarily under the Tea Party umbrella, but some of them do. So I think its there, its more organized, its more of a get out the vote effort, you know some of it is organized under social issues, under some right to life groups and things like that. Other things are libertarian bent but I think we've got a good mix within the Republican Party thats why whoever our nominee is has got to recognize that Ron Paul had some ideas, Santorum, Gingrich, that are attracting people and we need to we're not alienating any of them as we go into the general election.