Senator Jim DeMint on Winning Back a Republican Majority in the Senate: “I’d Rather Lose Fighting for the Right Cause”

By Gregory

Sep 15, 2010 3:57pm

ABC News' Jonathan Karl reports: I caught up with a jubilant Senator Jim DeMint today on Capitol Hill clearly relishing the victory of his candidate in the Delaware Republican Senate primary.   DeMint infuriated GOP leaders by endorsing Christine O’Donnell over Mike Castle in Delaware, just as he had infuriated them with his early endorsements of Marco Rubio (back when Charlie Crist was a Republican) and Ken Buck. But, once again, DeMint’s candidate prevailed over the candidate boosted by the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.  He set out to transform the Republican party and it looks like he just might be pulling it off.  Even the long-shot candidate he endorsed in New Hampshire – Ovide LaMontagne – came close to pulling off an upset victory last night. But, still, Senate Republicans are fuming about DeMint, convinced his actions are helping to doom their chances of taking back the Senate. I asked Senator DeMint if he’ll have any regrets if come November 3rd he realizes Republicans blew their chance at winning a majority because some of the candidates he supported lost. “No. I’ve been in the majority with Republicans who didn’t have principles and we embarrassed ourselves and lost credibility in front of the country. Frankly, I’m at a point where I’d rather lose fighting for the right cause then win fighting for the wrong cause,” he told me.  That said, DeMint says he believes O’Donnell will win the general election in Delaware. “We’re going to have an earthquake election if we put the right candidates and I think that’s what we saw in Delaware last night,” Senator DeMint told ABC News. “I think the people in Delaware are smart and you’re going to see Christine O’Donnell win that election” You can watch my entire interview with Senator DeMint and read the full transcript below.

TRANSCRIPT: Jonathan Karl: Republicans, a lot of Republican leaders say you’re crazy for doing this. You’re going to cost them the chance of getting the majority.  You’re supporting candidates that can’t win general elections.
Senator Jim DeMint: Yeah, if we had stuck with the candidates like Arlen Specter and Charlie Crist, there would certainly not be a wave behind the Republican party right now. There’s nothing to get excited about. But when we put candidates out there who are speaking for this awakening going on around the country it gets people excited, and there’s more excitement around the election and we’re drawing in independents and democrats right now. So if we didn’t have people like Marco Rubio on our ticket, we wouldn’t have anywhere near the opportunities that we’re going to have in November.
Jonathan Karl: Okay, but how upset have you made some of your republican colleagues here with what you’ve done?
Senator Jim DeMint: Well, according to them we’re okay.  But the anonymous staff members that speak make me think that there’s a lot of anger out there.  But it doesn’t matter. I’ve been here 12 years. I don’t want to be here 6 more years with the same people I’ve been with if they’re not going to stand up for Constitutionally limited government and continue to run our country in a ditch with all this debt. I mean, we’ve got to change this. There’s too much a stake.  Really, there’s too much a stake to trivialize this debate with meaningless political labels like “liberal,” “moderate,” and “conservative.” I mean, we’re really at a crossroads of survival versus bankruptcy. And I think the more people that get this urgency, the more they realize I’ve got to step outside my comfort zone.  I can’t just stay with incumbent Senators who keep voting for the Obama/Pelosi agenda rather than standing on principle with the American people where they really are.
Jonathan Karl: So you still stand by what you once famously said that about rather than having 30 true conservatives in the Senate than 60 that don’t really have principles. Do you still stand by that?
Senator Jim DeMint: I do. And I’ve said I’d rather have 40 Marco Rubios than 60 Arlen Specters and the reason for that is if you want 60 republicans, you’ve got to have at least 40 to start with who stand on principle. And if we can show America this election the clear contrast between the Pelosi-Reid-Obama agenda and more of a constitutionally limited government, if our candidates have that clear contrast, I think they’re going to win in every state. We’re going to have an earthquake election if we put the right candidates and I think that’s what we saw in Delaware last night. Christine O’Donnell has been maligned by everyone from the right to the left but people in Delaware love our country and they don’t want it to go bankrupt. They’re going see this contrast because now republicans are offering a contrast with the democrats who are going to continue this radical agenda with the President. I think the people in Delaware are smart and you’re going to see Christine O’Donnell win that election.
Jonathan Karl: But the chairman of the Republican party in Delaware said that she couldn’t win a race to be dog catcher.
Senator Jim DeMint: Well, it’s my business to show they are wrong. That in Pennsylvania, Florida, Kentucky,  all over the country, these candidates I have supported, I was told could not win elections. They’re ahead in the polls and they’re all going to win, not because of me but because they are speaking for Americans.
Jonathan Karl: Will you have regrets if you wake up on November 3rd, day after the election, and suddenly you could have had the majority and suddenly you didn’t because you lost one or two of these races?
Senator Jim DeMint: No. I’ve been in the majority with Republicans who didn’t have principles and we embarrassed ourselves and lost credibility in front of the country. Frankly, I’m at a point where I’d rather lose fighting for the right cause then win fighting for the wrong cause. And I think that’s where America wants us to be and why we’ll raise probably 5 million dollars on Senateconservatives.com.  Average contribution $40 because Americans are not so concerned about winning as they are having a candidate that will speak for them. But the interesting thing is when you get candidates who stand on principles, you win. And we’re going to have 60 if we can get the whole party to come behind candidates who really believe in limited government.
Jonathan Karl: Has the republican leadership, republican establishment in this town gotten the message?
Senator Jim DeMint: Some have, some haven’t. I think you see it reflected a lot in the house. I think you’re going to see now a lot in our Republican party. McConnell is a great leader for us. John Cornyn has done a good job. We’ve got a good group of candidates now that they’re going to all get behind. I mean, there’s still a lot of people on K Street, the lobbyist, who are earmark lobbyist. They’re here to take home the bacon and what they know is these candidates I’m supporting are going to shut down the earmark favor factory. We cannot be the party of limited government and think it is our job to take home the bacon. America is sick and tired of that kind of thinking. And so, yes there are some people downtown here in Washington who don’t want us to stop earmark factory. Like Trent Lott, he doesn’t want anymore “DeMint Disciples.” I don’t want any more “DeMint Disciples”  but I do want people who speak for America.
Jonathan Karl: Any chance you will run for leadership?
Senator Jim DeMint: I don’t want to run for leadership. I’ve got a pretty good leadership position now as Chairman of Steering Committee and Chairman of Senate Conservative’s fund, which is at senateconservatives.com by the way. So I like what I’m doing and I’m going to try and cooperate with leadership all I can and I think there will be a good leadership team if we put good people around them.
Jonathan Karl: Okay and one last question: What kind of message has been sent the Republican leadership, leadership of your party, by what we have seen in Delaware and in Alaska, Colorado, Nevada…on and on and on.  What kind of message is being sent?
Senator Jim DeMint: The message is pretty clear: Americans are sick and tired of the doubletalk coming out of Washington, of us going home and saying we’re conservative and then coming up here and voting for 10,000 earmarks. We can’t fool America anymore, the media is too good.  They’re reporting what we’re really doing. So the message for the Republican party is, let’s stand up on our principles and we can win in any state in country. Because in every state where I’ve supported a candidate they’ve said a conservative can’t win. Well, every state they’re ahead.

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