Sen. Jim DeMint said Sunday morning that he could support any of the Republican presidential contenders participating in his Labor Day candidate forum in South Carolina, although he sounded content to withhold his endorsement for the foreseeable future.
The South Carolina Republican and tea party favorite will moderate a forum in Columbia on Monday that will feature the six GOP presidential candidates who qualified for the event, and he said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that any of the GOP candidates would make a better commander in chief than President Barack Obama.
The candidates are former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whom DeMint endorsed in 2008; Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.); former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.); businessman Herman Cain; Rep. Ron Paul (Texas); and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. They each met the forum’s requirement that participants receive at least 5 percent support in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls of GOP primary voters as of Aug. 22.
“There’s no one in that group that I couldn’t support as our nominee,” DeMint said. “I’m very open right now; I’m listening to what they say.”
DeMint’s endorsement is considered vital, given his popularity with South Carolina Republicans and credibility with tea party activists nationwide, although it remains unclear whether he will offer his backing to a candidate before the GOP picks a nominee.
DeMint added that he is not expecting much from Obama’s scheduled Thursday address before a joint session of Congress to unveil his new jobs agenda.
The conservative South Carolina Republican indicated he might support some of the proposals the president is expected to introduce, including an extension of unemployment insurance for the long-term jobless. But DeMint predicted that Obama would not call for the kinds of policies that the Republican believes are needed to spur aggressive economic growth and reduce the chronically high unemployment rate.
“I’m so tired of his speeches, it’s going to be hard for me to watch,” DeMint said.
The South Carolinian also appeared on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.