01/20/2012 10:20 am ET

Jim DeMint Says Newt Gingrich 'Handled Well' Allegations By His Second Ex-Wife

WASHINGTON -- South Carolina's Sen. Jim DeMint, a tea party leader, said the South Carolina Republican primary is "clearly a two-man race" now between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

DeMint has steadfastly declined to endorse any of the GOP candidates, although he supported Romney four years ago. Asked about his persistent neutrality on "CBS This Morning," DeMint said, "I don't think there's very many people in South Carolina who are waiting for me to tell them how to vote."

Gingrich also praised Rick Santorum. "Well, I think he's very popular here," he said. "It could shift--Rick's a good guy, a strong character, and I think he did well last night. So he could get back in play. But just from the polls I was looking at this morning, it looks like a two-man race."

He said he's focusing more on trying to win a Republican majority in the Senate.

DeMint sounded off on a heated exchange between CNN's John King and Newt Gingrich in Thursday's debate surrounding allegations against the former House speaker that he wanted an "open marriage" with his second ex-wife, Marianne Gingrich. "Well, he probably handled it as well as he could have, because the best defense is sometimes a good offense," DeMint said. "He certainly went on the offense last night. But today, I think South Carolinians will have a chance to digest it. Whether or not it makes a difference in the race, I'm not sure."