Of the potential Republican candidates on offer, DeMint comes closest to filling the Palin vacuum.
Assuming DeMint decided to run, It could happen. Then again, if DeMint’s insurgent-backing campaign succeeds in November by sending a number of Tea Party-aligned Senators to Washington he will have also succeeded in making himself somewhat obsolete. What do I mean by this? Right now, DeMint stands out for being a particularly outspoken Senate Republican who has been successfully fighting against the NRSC and the minority leader during primary season, and he has a lot of credibility with activists because of this. The more successful DeMint is in promoting Tea Party candidates, the weaker the rationale for a possible presidential candidacy becomes. A DeMint run would make a lot more sense if the GOP were not already mostly falling in line with DeMint and DeMint’s preferred candidates. The more friendly to the Tea Party movement that elected Republicans becomes, the less need there is for a Jim DeMint to run for the nomination. Once the establishment incumbents have all been routed or cowed and once most of the presidential contenders have jumped on the Tea Party bandwagon, there is not much to distinguish DeMint in the eyes of primary voters.
It is possible that his recent maneuvers to block last-minute legislation in this session will not be perceived as striking a blow for good government, but viewed instead as the sort of insider manipulation that DeMint’s allies claim to loathe. Perhaps activists won’t mind as long as DeMint keeps breaching Senate protocols and annoying his colleagues. DeMint’s take-no-prisoners approach satisfies his supporters, but he is making a lot of enemies along the way.
A significant test for DeMint is the outcome of the Alaska Senate race. He has thrown his weight behind Miller more than just about anyone else other than Palin. Murkowski’s write-in bid evidently has significant support across the state, which suggests that there may be a rather low ceiling of support for DeMint’s preferred kind of candidate in one of the more overwhelmingly Republican states in the country. Between Murkowski and McAdams, 58% of Alaskans say they want someone other than Miller, so they are rejecting the kind of politics that Miller and DeMint represent. If that happening in Alaska, why won’t it happen in the rest of the country?
Miller’s candidacy is a test of the notion that most voters abhor earmarks and federal spending, and the contrast with his opponents could not be more clear. He is running against two candidates who have no reservations about requesting federal funds for Alaska. To drive home the point, Murkowski has wrapped herself in the mantle of Ted Stevens. Even if you want to argue that Alaska is unrepresentative and more heavily dependent on federal funds than most states, the reality is that most voters across the country do not respond well to anti-spending appeals. Anti-spending appeals are supposed to be at the heart of what DeMint and Tea Party candidates want. Regardless of what it means for DeMint, Miller’s possible loss in Alaska has a sobering lesson for everyone on the right promoting the fantasy that the public is eager to reward budget-cutters with political office.