Jim DeMint, a Tea Party heavyweight who is extending his sphere of influence beyond South Carolina, said he wouldn’t support Jon Huntsman, or any other contender who wouldn’t sign his “cut, cap, and balance” pledge.
“I won’t support any candidate who does not support balancing the budget,” Sen. DeMint (R-S.C.) said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Asked if former Utah Governor and Republican presidential candidate Huntsman was out, the Tea Party leader was categorical, “For me, he is out.”
DeMint said there were “a lot of good candidates” in the field. “The more that I’m around them, the more confident I feel. I think as – as America gets to know them better, I think you’re going to see a few strong ones come out of this field,” he said, downplaying Huntsman, a Mormon and former ambassador to China under President Barack Obama.
Who are these better candidates? Refusing to name them, DeMint just reiterated his stand, “I’m not writing anyone off unless they write off the idea of a balanced budget.”
Is it former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney? “The only litmus test I have at this point is really the balanced budget, because I’m convinced we’re going to bankrupt our country and we’re … going to collapse our economy unless we stop spending,” DeMint said, going back to the Cut, Cap, and Balance Pledge, which calls for significant cuts in federal spending in the short-run followed by new spending caps and passage of a constitutional amendment to balance the budget.
Will he like to see Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has a good rapport with the Tea Party movement and would be willing to sign the pledge, get in? DeMint said, “I don’t know that much about Governor Perry. [But] He does seem to be bold. And so I’ll need to look into it if he … decides to get in.”
DeMint made it clear his endorsement was crucial for Huntsman, whose campaign was announced just a week ago.
“A lot of them are asking to come in and speak to me. I’m working with people in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, to try to get a lot of people to hold back and not commit so we can see how they respond to this debt ceiling, the balanced budget and some of the things that we’re going to face here over the next few months.”
DeMint added, “I think we’ll know who our candidate is by how they … lead based on what we’re doing here,” saying the precondition to earning the Tea Party’s endorsement was opposing raising the debt ceiling and supporting a constitutional amendment to balance the budget.
Asked if he didn’t care if the country defaults, DeMint said, “I do care … but the fact is … we won’t. If we never raise the debt ceiling again, we are going to pay our bills, we are going to pay social security.”
America doesn’t have a revenue problem, he said. “We have a spending problem.”
“The government is doing things that we can’t do well. We’re wasting billions of dollars. And we’re not going to address that waste and the fraud unless we have to.”
The bottom line of what DeMint said is “any member of the House or the Senate who doesn’t understand we need to balance our budget probably shouldn’t be there.”
“And certainly a presidential candidate who’s not willing to say we have to balance our budget should not be president of the United States.” The warning was loud and clear.