It was no accident that DeMint failed to land a seat that he coveted on the Senate Finance Committee, a seat to which his seniority normally would have entitled him.
And it was no accident that Senate Republicans overruled DeMint when he tried to strip U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, of her Senate seniority. After Joe Miller, who had DeMints backing, defeated Murkowski in Alaskas GOP primary, she launched a write-in bid to keep her seat. When she succeeded, beating GOP nominee Miller, DeMint suggested Murkowski had forfeited her party-based seniority. Other GOP senators ended the seniority squabble in her favor. But Murkowski never forgave DeMint.
The power of ideas
While DeMints tactics sometimes left him shunned by his peers, his willingness to stand alone for the principles he held dear earned him thousands of unabashed admirers around the country.
He is not afraid to tell the truth, and he is not afraid to take on issues, even if hes the only one taking them on, said Joe Dugan, a Myrtle Beach retiree and head of the S.C. Tea Party. This country is going broke, we need to take a stand, and hes one of the few people up in the capital who really understands that.
U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-Indian Land, elected in 2010, said DeMint is a mentor.
Mulvaney rejects the criticism that DeMint cost Republicans control of the Senate, saying DeMint supported more GOP winners than losers.
When he made an affirmative decision to step outside the system, thats when he vaulted to national prominence, Mulvaney said. I dont know how many other people have done that in my lifetime. The man has had an inordinate impact on the United States Senate. Jim has almost reshaped the Senate in less than a decade. Thats unheard of.
In light of his stormy tenure, the DeMint who spoke on the Senate floor Thursday for the last time sounded demure.
Im very grateful to my colleagues who Ive often scrapped with on a lot of issues, he said. I appreciate their patience on both sides.
Speaking quietly, DeMint said the ideas he had fought for werent political or partisan, just common-sense notions that some states he mentioned Texas, North Dakota, South Carolina and Pennsylvania have shown work, including lower taxes, less regulation and fewer labor unions.
This is not rocket science, DeMint said, insisting Democrats and Republicans can find common ground to solve a host of problems.
Then, DeMint dropped the other shoe.
As he spoke of his new career at the Heritage Foundation advancing the power of ideas at a think tank that paid its last leader more than $1 million a year DeMint made it clear that he leaves the Senate unchanged.
My hope is to make conservative ideas so pervasive, so persuasive, across the country that politicians of all parties have to embrace those ideas to be elected, DeMint said.