With slight variations at different times, DeMint defiantly declared: I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who believe in principles of freedom than 60 who dont.
For Graham, a Seneca Republican who has worked with Democrats to try to solve big issues, that wasnt a viable approach to governing.
When a DeMint admirer tried to shout Graham down, yelling, Youre a hypocrite! at the 2009 S.C. Republican Convention, Graham retorted: Im a winner, pal. Winning matters to me. If it doesnt matter to you, theres the exit sign.
In his tumultuous Senate career, DeMint was willing to lose multiple battles in his bid to win what he viewed as an all-out war over the direction of a nation that he repeatedly accused Obama and his congressional allies of leading toward socialism.
When DeMint tried unsuccessfully to block extension of unemployment benefits, editorial writers called him callous. But in his abiding belief that all Americans should play on a level playing field and Congress shouldnt pick winners and losers, DeMint was an equal-opportunity offender.
He opposed trade subsidies for big companies, federal compensation for military family members who drank tainted water at Camp Lejeune, and special incentives to businesses who hire war veterans.
He also enraged S.C. business leaders by refusing to sign a letter to Obama, written by the states other lawmakers, seeking federal money to deepen the Charleston port, a crucial economic-development project for the state.
Show horse? Or work horse?
DeMints soft-spoken manner and slight physical stature made his rabble-rousing style all the more formidable.
That style was on display Thursday as he delivered his farewell speech on the Senate floor. Saying he had discarded his prepared remarks in order to speak from the heart, DeMint thanked his wife and four children, his staffers and the people of South Carolina.
Then, he thanked his many friends in the Senate.
That would be standard fare for most retiring senators.
But not DeMint, a political loner who loved to tell his followers: I didnt come to Washington to make friends, and I havent been disappointed.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., heaped public praise on DeMint, who declined an interview for this story.
They say success has many fathers, but its hard to think of anyone whos done more than Jim DeMint to raise the publics awareness on spending and debt, and the threat that big government poses to our liberties, McConnell said Wednesday on the Senate floor.
Coming from McConnell, such praise was striking.
While DeMints growing power as a conservative kingmaker made McConnell and other prominent Republicans wary of criticizing him publicly, their aides revealed their true feelings in multiple background conversations with reporters.
They resented DeMint for forcing GOP senators to take uncomfortable votes on issues they would have preferred to avoid and, once, were furious when he forced senators to stay in town for a rare Saturday vote, and then didnt show up to participate in it.
In Senate parlance, some Republican senators viewed DeMint as a show horse, not a workhorse. They denigrated him as an ideologue who played to the partys base.