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May 10, 2011 / J. Shaw

DeMint:to 12 Pres Candidates-"Balanced Budget or Bust"

By Byron York….

It’s possible, at least theoretically, to win the 2012 Republican presidential nomination without the support of South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint. But nobody wants to risk it.DeMint has emerged as a key power broker in the 2012 Republican contest. His clout extends far beyond his home state; through some carefully planned visits, he has now become a player in Iowa and New Hampshire. But it is in South Carolina, home of the first-in-the-South primary, that DeMint rules the political roost.”He is enormously popular,” says David Woodard, a political scientist at Clemson University and director of the Palmetto Poll. “If he were to pick out a Mitch Daniels or a Tim Pawlenty, then almost overnight they would do very well.”

So far DeMint, who in 2008 supported former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, has given no hint about who he will endorse, or whether he will endorse at all. But after the first Republican debate in Greenville last Thursday, he laid out one requirement any candidate has to meet even to be considered for DeMint’s approval. And in the process, DeMint sought to enlist the GOP presidential field in the spending fight currently raging on Capitol Hill.

DeMint, along with every other Republican in the Senate, supports a balanced budget amendment that, if passed, would a) require a balanced budget within 10 years; b) limit federal spending to 18 percent of gross domestic product; and c) require a supermajority vote to raise taxes. DeMint won’t vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling unless the amendment is passed first. And in Greenville, he made clear he’ll only consider a candidate who feels the same way.

“I couldn’t support a presidential candidate who did not say we have to have a balanced budget amendment pass before we support [raising the debt ceiling],” DeMint said. “I think we should go to the mat with Obama. I don’t think there should be any compromise on that, and if Obama wants to be closing part of the government next fall because he’s unwilling to balance the budget, I think we can win that argument.”

None of the candidates has publicly come out in support of the specific balanced budget amendment under consideration in the Senate. But DeMint will soon begin a series of meetings with the candidates, and once those are over, they’ll have no doubt what it will take to win his support. “He is taking the position that, if you’re a Republican candidate who deserves to be elected, it’s balanced budget or bust,” says one source in the DeMint circle. “That goes for the ’12 presidential candidates, and also for Senate candidates.”

DeMint’s power comes in large part from his popularity with Tea Party activists. In recent weeks, he has been urging those activists in key caucus and primary states not to commit to any candidate until the balanced budget fight takes place. “I’ve told the folks in Iowa and New Hampshire in the last few weeks, ‘Don’t endorse. Watch what they do. See if they take a stand or stay on the sidelines,’ ” DeMint says. “These vague and general answers aren’t going to work. I want to hear them weigh in. If I hear them say, ‘Let’s be adults and increase the debt ceiling’ — that one’s off my list.”

There are plenty of arguments against a balanced budget amendment. Amending the Constitution necessarily takes a lot of time, and there is a deficit crisis right now. It’s not at all clear that spendthrift lawmakers wouldn’t find ways around the requirement to balance the federal budget. And of course, Congress already has all the authority it needs to pass a balanced budget — and last did so just a decade ago.

Of course, all that is true and there is still a $1.65 trillion deficit this year, with more to come if nothing is done. DeMint makes the entirely reasonable case that all the commissions and gangs and compromises and bipartisan agreements that are the normal stuff of Washington politics won’t solve the problem. The debt ceiling fight, DeMint believes, is the perfect opportunity for Republicans to hang tough against the White House and Democrats. And he’s not looking kindly on any Republican who doesn’t go along. “If we can’t get the members of Congress to agree that we have to balance our budget sometime in a 10-year window,” says DeMint, “then every one of them ought to be fired.”

Read more at the Washington Examiner:


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