Labor Day is the traditional kickoff of the campaign season, so get ready for a flurry of activity. There's a debate on Wednesday. And tomorrow, the leading Republican presidential candidates take center stage at a South Carolina forum, hosted by the state's powerful senator, Jim DeMint. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was planning to skip the event, but he changed his mind when Rick Perry surged ahead in the polls.
Senator DeMint, of course, is a major force behind the Tea Party movement. His enforcement is one of the major prized of 2012. And he joins me now from Clemson, South Carolina.
Senator, thank you for being with us.
DEMINT: Christiane, it's great to be with you. And we're really looking forward to this forum, because it's set up in a very different style. Instead of the typical debate, with lots of candidates on stage, each candidate gets to spend 21 minutes on the stage by themselves to define themselves in their own terms. So I think folks all over the country will find it very interesting.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you then for your view on the latest entrant into the race, and that is Texas Governor Rick Perry. Earlier this summer, you said you didn't know enough about him. Now can you tell me your views since he's been in the race and there's been a lot said by him over the last couple of weeks?
DEMINT: Well, I'm excited about our field. I think the more people find out about the Republican candidates, the more strengths they see. I think that's why a lot of people have hesitated to jump in. And it's good to give people a choice. So I'm glad Governor Perry jumped in.
But I'm going to withhold any endorsement or support for several months. It's really important to me to see how these candidates respond to the big issues of the day. I want to see not only their policy proposals, particularly as it relates to jobs, but I want to see how they respond to recommendations from this super-committee and what Congress is doing towards balancing the budget and other issues like that. That's going to play out over the next couple of months.
But this forum's going to be very helpful to me and others, because instead of forcing them to answer my questions, we are going to encourage them to define the issues on their own terms. This will give us a little bit deeper understanding on how they view the Constitution and their role as president.
AMANPOUR: Senator, I know you want to withhold an endorsement, but I do want to press you, because Rick Perry is the front-runner at the moment. And I want to know -- and particularly he's quite beloved of the Tea Party movement, of which you're a major force. What can you tell me? How do you feel, for instance, about his endorsement of Al Gore back in 1988, of his praising Hillary Clinton's and the Clinton health care plan? What do you feel about those stances?
DEMINT: Well, I want to find out more about him, obviously, but we know people change. Reagan was a Democrat. And I want to look at what the governor's done as governor of Texas, just as I'm going to try to dig into a lot of the issues, past, present and future policy proposals of all the candidates.
But I want to give them all a little room to change. I know I've changed some positions I had 10 years ago, because the country's in a very different situation. So I'm going to listen and look and do my -- do my homework. And I'm not counting any of them out at this point.