Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) told radio host Rush Limbaugh on Thursday that he plans to remain an effective mouthpiece for conservative politicians -- maybe an even better one -- after his departure from the Senate in January to take the reins at conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation.
"I think I can do a lot to support these conservatives inside the Senate and the House [by] working with the Heritage Foundation all over the country to convince Americans that our policies are the best for them," DeMint told Limbaugh. "One hundred percent of Americans, whether they're poor or rich -- the conservative ideas will make the lives of Americans better. And Heritage has the platform for me to help spread that idea."
DeMint has long maintained a close relationship with the Heritage Foundation and credits the think tank's work for inspiring him to run for Congress in the first place. Now he will no longer just be pushing its policies on Capitol Hill, but will look to use his marketing background to take the conservative message nationwide.
"In the Senate, a lot of my role has been trying to stop bad legislation and explaining to America why the policies of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party are not good for them," DeMint said. "And that's an important role. But after spending most of my life in advertising and marketing and research, I know that we can do a whole lot better job of convincing the American people, winning their hearts and souls. If we do that, then we are going to be more effective inside of Congress and more effective at election time."
DeMint, who previously indicated that he would not seek a third term when his current one ended in 2016, has carved out space for himself as a Tea Party leader in the Senate. The super PAC that he founded, the Senate Conservatives Fund, has thrown its considerable weight behind Tea Party stars such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen.-elect Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
"We have now stocked the Senate with some of the strongest conservatives in the country today, and that's a big change," DeMint told Limbaugh. "So I am leaving the Senate better than I found it."
His resignation, slated to take effect in January, will vacate the junior seat in South Carolina's Senate delegation. Gov. Nikki Haley (R) will appoint a temporary replacement until a special election can be held in 2014. Speculation over who will receive her stamp of approval is already rampant.
One popularly-circulated option is Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the first African-American representative elected in the state since Reconstruction and a staunch conservative with Tea Party credentials. According to CNN's Peter Hamby, DeMint has even made it known that he wants Scott to take his place.
In taking on the role of president at Heritage Foundation, DeMint will see a massive pay increase. His maximum net worth was valued at only $65,000 by Open Secrets in 2010; the current Heritage president, Edwin Feulner, made $1.1 million that same year. But DeMint is no stranger to the foundation, even if he will be new to its payroll.
"I feel like I'm coming home -- I just told that to all the Heritage staff, " DeMint told Limbaugh. "When I walk in the door here, I'm with like-minded people who care about the cause nationwide. So this is really a homecoming for me."
As a part of his new role at Heritage, DeMint said that he wanted to direct some of the think tank's efforts at the state level. Twenty-five GOP governors are pushing strong ideas -- "whether it's immigration reform, voter ID, education choice" -- in their states, and he wants to put their policies front and center.
"[We want to] spotlight the things that are working, promote them in other states and use those real outcomes to pressure the people here in Washington to pass the policies that let these things work," DeMint said.
Feulner, who ran the Heritage Foundation for 36 years, also speaking to Limbaugh, said he is looking forward to DeMint's stewardship and will continue to work part-time with the former senator.
"[The American people have] got to know that we really have solutions that will work," Feulner said. "DeMint's background in terms of marketing and focus groups [will help with] taking the message that we've got and saying, 'How can we make this relevant to real people?' Jim is going to be a real breath of fresh air in terms of how we can reach those new audiences."
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