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DeMint Solidifies His Status As Conservative Star

http://66.225.205.104/JR20110906a.mp3

Top Republican candidates for president trekked to South Carolina to spend Labor Day afternoon answering the probing questions of Senator Jim DeMint. The Palmetto Freedom Forum - as DeMint dubbed the event - was at times tense, but largely a friendly venue. No winner was named - unless you count DeMint himself. DeMint is only in his second term in the U.S. Senate, but he's risen to significant prominence as a kingmaker for conservatives. He helped raise millions from conservative voters to usher a crop of Tea Party favorites into Congress during the midterm elections. That's why his forum for Republican candidates yesterday was so closely-watched, although some in the audience would like to have seen him on stage. "I think he's wonderful," says Dough Schell from King, North Carolina "I'd like to have seen him run for president, too." DeMint says he's not running for president. But he's also said he won't run for a third term in the Senate, which leaves the door open to speculation. In the short-term, he says he'll focus on getting more Tea Party conservatives into the Senate with his fundraising machine. "We raised over $9 million last time, I hope to get $15 (million) this time," said DeMint at a press conference after yesterday's forum. He's aim to get "five or ten more" conservative Senators elected to office so "the next Republican President will have a Senate that they can work with." DeMint doesn't plan to make any endorsement in the presidential race for a few months, at least. His endorsement will carry significant weight with South Carolina Republican voters - and help convince conservatives across the country to open their wallets. That's surely one reason the top Republican contenders were willing to spend their Labor Day holiday taking questions from DeMint.