Sen. Jim DeMint doesn’t think people much care about his presidential endorsement (“I don’t like the suggestion that there’s lots of people out there waiting for me to tell them how to vote,” he says). But the fact is people do care — a lot. A nod from DeMint is one of the most coveted endorsements of the 2012 presidential cycle. Not only is DeMint the most popular Republican in the critical primary state of South Carolina, he has become a national hero among conservatives thanks to his bold support of conservative insurgents running for Senate in 2010. Newly elected Sens. Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey, Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Ron Johnson can all trace their improbable victories to early support from DeMint and his Senate Conservatives Fund.
It is this success that has led DeMint, after much contemplation, to decide that he will not endorse anyone in the 2012 GOP presidential primaries. “I want to announce that I am very unlikely to endorse a candidate in the presidential race,” DeMint told me in an interview this weekend. The most disappointed GOP contender may be Mitt Romney, who received DeMint’s endorsement in 2008 and could have used the senator’s support to woo skeptical conservatives this time around. Why did DeMint decide not to endorse Romney again? “It’s a different race, different people in it, different time for our country,” he said, adding, “I would be very comfortable supporting any of . . . [our candidates] for president.”