Jim DeMint backtracks on potential presidential run

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., speaks to the Values Voter Summit, held by the Family Research Council Action, Friday, Sept. 17, 2010, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Jim DeMint

Updated at 12:15 p.m. ET

News broke this morning that Sen. Jim DeMint was considering a presidential bid, but hours after the senator's remarks were published, his office is walking back those comments.

The senator, a favorite among Tea Party activists and an influential conservative in Congress, told the Hill newspaper that he would consider jumping into the race because his supporters were urging him to.

"It's humbling and out of respect, my wife and I have talked about it," he said. "Out of respect for the people who have asked us to think about this, that's what we're going to do. I don't want to imply that I'm changing in mind, but I want to consider what all these folks are doing."

However, a spokesman for the senator says DeMint will stay in the Senate in 2012. "Sen. DeMint is focused on his job to stop the reckless spending in Washington and helping to elect more principled conservatives to join the fight in the Senate," spokesman Wesley Denton said.

The two-term senator did tell the Hill it would take "an extraordinary set of circumstances" to get him into the race, but he added, "I've learned not to rule out anything in life."

DeMint ruled out a presidential bid earlier this year, but his supporters have nevertheless urged him to run. The senator is paying heed to his backers by suggesting he is thinking about running, even as he insists there are no plans in he works.

Other Republicans have made similar moves, as conservative activists search for charismatic candidates to enter the GOP primary. The current field of candidates, polls show, has left voters underwhelmed. Texas Gov. Rick Perry also recently said he would consider running, after previously stating he wouldn't. Even Donald Trump, after flirting with a presidential bid but bowing out of the race to much fanfare, said this morning on a local New York morning show that he's reconsidering it (but would run as an independent).

If DeMint were to the race, he could presumably win the GOP nominating contest in his home state of South Carolina, one of the earliest primary states. Every Republican since 1980 that won the South Carolina primary went on to win the presidential nomination, the Hill pointed out.

His candidacy would likely serve as a challenge to Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, two other Tea Party favorites who could enter the race. Palin is currently touring the nation by bus, teasing reporters with her ad hoc scheduling as well as her possible plans for a presidential bid. Bachmann, meanwhile, is expected to announce her plans later this month.

Richard Viguerie, one of the Republicans urging DeMint to get into the race, compared the senator to President Ronald Reagan, whom Viguerie helped elect in 1980, the Hill reports.

"He would be the dominant movement conservative leader," Viguerie said of DeMint.

DeMint has this year traveled to Iowa and New Hampshire, two other early-nominating states, to participate in candidate forums. "If you want to know which presidential candidate is on your side, see what they do with the debates in Congress," DeMint said in Iowa in March.