Jim DeMint’s sudden resignation from the Senate to head up the Heritage Foundation makes a lot of sense for him (the preeminent position at one of, if not the, most preeminent conservative think tanks, his to enjoy for perhaps decades) and a lot of sense for the organization.
But there’s reason for a lot of conservatives to feel disappointed. There’s been an accusation – sometimes fair, sometimes not – that some conservative lawmakers want to take a pure and uncompromising stance, but who prefer to do so safely from the metaphorical sidelines. Conservatives complain that they never get one of their own in leadership in the House or Senate, but any conservative who did would run the risk of acknowledging the hard truth of the job: sometimes the best deal you can get is half a loaf. And once you became the guy who negotiated the “half a loaf” deal, you lose your “true conservative” street cred.
I’m hearing some folks say DeMint will be able to fight for his causes better at Heritage than from within the U.S. Senate, and that strikes me as debatable. He’s going from a position where he can influence the writing of legislation to a position where he can influence the writing of white papers. Is he really going to have more success persuading lawmakers as a head of a think tank – even one as respected and well-regarded as Heritage – than as a colleague?
In the meantime, this sets up a free-for-all in the sharp-elbowed world of South Carolina Republican politics, and greatly lessens the chance of a serious conservative challenge to Lindsey Graham.
Governor Nikki Haley is going to have a lot of options to choose from in the coming days or weeks:
State Sen. Tom Davis, popular in his Low Country district and once frequently-mentioned as a possible challenger to Graham; surprised some Republicans by backing Ron Paul in the 2012 GOP presidential primary.
State Attorney General Alan Wilson, the son of Rep. Joe Wilson. The younger Wilson was just elected in 2010 to a four-year term, and he may not be eager to leave so soon.
Rep. Joe Wilson has been asked about running for statewide office many times and indicated he’s happy with his role in the House.
Keep in mind that any of the above figured who are not picked as DeMint’s interim successor could very well challenge the picked successor or Graham in the 2014 primaries.
I can’t begrudge DeMint or Heritage this decision, but a lot of headaches are going to flow forth from this…
This may be a pleasantly early night for election-returns watchers.
With 32 percent of precincts reporting in the GOP runoff for governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley leads Gresham Barrett, 62 percent to 38 percent. She’s just been declared the winner.
In the 1st congressional district, with 26 percent of precincts reporting, Tim Scott is way ahead of Paul Thurmond, 72 percent to 28 percent.
In another GOP House primary, Rep. Bob Inglis appears to be going down in flames, trailing Trey Gowdy 72 percent to 28 percent, with 31 percent of precincts reporting.
In North Carolina, Elaine Marshall is beating Cal Cunningham in the Democratic Senate primary, 62 percent to 37 percent, with 27 percent of precincts reporting. The winner takes on incumbent Republican Sen. Richard Burr.
In a hotly contested battle in the North Carolina’s 8th congressional district, former body-armor executive Tim D’Annunzio trails retired Charlotte television sportscaster Harold Johnson, 66 percent to 33 percent, with only 5 percent of precincts reporting so far.
UPDATE: In my e-mailbox:
Nikki Haley has won the Republican primary runoff in South Carolina and will face Democratic state Senator Vincent Sheheen in November. Republican Governors Association Executive Director Nick Ayers today issued the following statement:
“Nikki Haley’s historic victory in South Carolina is a testament to her hard work, perseverance and determination. Her success ushers in a new era of South Carolina politics, and represents a growing new generation of Republican leaders from across the country. We congratulate her on besting an experienced field of challengers, first capturing the most votes in the primary and then winning the short runoff.
“Now the attention turns to the general election, where Nikki Haley will offer a clear vision of lower taxes, reduced government interference, and greater economic opportunity and job creation. Her Democratic opponent will simply bring the same tired policies: increased reliance on government, higher taxes and meddling in the private sector.
“We look forward to working with Nikki Haley and her campaign to ensure that she earns a tremendous and well-deserved victory in November.”
UPDATE: With more than half the precincts reporting, Tim Scott leads with more than 73 percent. Wonder what it will take to call this one.
In the South Carolina state attorney general’s race, Joe Wilson’s son, Alan Wilson, leads 57–42 over Leighton Lord, with 12 of 46 counties reporting.
ANOTHER UPDATE: 8:45 p.m., the AP calls it for Tim Scott. Meet the man likely to be the first African-American Republican congressman since J. C. Watts: