12/11/2012 04:21 pm ET Updated Feb 10, 2013

Washington Is Lost for Now, GOP Senator Says, But the Fight Continues Across America

"We've lost the battle in Washington" for now, says Senator Jim DeMint (R, S.C.). The new goals, he says, are for conservatives to work in states and prove their principles work, plus defend against President Obama's effort "to steamroll what's left of the Republican Party here in Washington."

As a guest on Istook Live!, DeMint agreed with talk show host Ernest Istook that Obama aims to crush his opposition now so they cannot resist his agenda over the next four years. Said the senator, "They smell blood in the water and they'll keep pushing ... They're not coming our way or coming to the middle to try and govern."

However, he expects "very few" Republicans will go along with the president's tax demands but only among those "who probably aren't real Republicans."

DeMint says Democrats would prefer that Republicans not give in but stand their ground against different tax treatment for middle and upper-class taxpayers. That's because the resultant tax hikes would give Obama more money to spend. "They want us to go over this so-called "cliff" because it gives them a chance to get what they want in terms of higher taxes and they believe the mainstream media will blame Republicans and it will hurt us more than it will hurt them," he said. DeMint has become a major national leader for conservatives and the Tea Party movement by standing firm even when that means bucking the leaders of his own party. But despite his internal differences with the GOP, DeMint told Istook the other side is much worse:
  • DeMint: "They generally believe in a collectivist, big government society, and they see the government as a key player in our economy and our culture. And anything we suggest otherwise is alien to them. So their paradigm is big government."
  • Istook: "You're talking about the paradigm of the liberal Democrats or the media?"
  • DeMint:" It's the same thing."

The senator described what can be done in the states while he and others play defense in DC:

"We need to do everything we can do as conservatives here in Washington to minimize the damage of a second Obama administration. At the same time I hope to be a part of working with states all over the country.

"There are 25 states with Republican governors and legislators. A lot of them are trying to implement conservative polices: lower taxes, better regulatory structure, tort reform--things we know that work...

"If we show them how conservative principles are working better in states like Texas and what's happening in states like California, they'll begin to see how we need to change our national policy so our country can work better for everyone.

"It's a challenge, but we have to admit at least temporarily we've lost the battle in Washington. The best we can do here at the federal level is to keep the federal government from stopping those states from doing the right thing!"

Istook and DeMint served together in the U.S. House of Representatives before DeMint was elected to the Senate.

HEAR the interview.

READ the transcript.

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Former Congressman Ernest Istook is now a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation and hosts the "Istook Live!" talk radio show from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday. It can be heard everywhere via