WASHINGTON — Saying he was excited and comfortable with Mitt Romney as the Republican Partys presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-Greenville, Thursday called on the former Massachusetts governors GOP primary foes to re-evaluate their campaigns.
The Upstate Republican, among the nations conservative leaders, stopped just short of endorsing Romney.
DeMints appeal for Republicans to focus on defeating President Barack Obama came a day after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, another influential conservative, endorsed Romney and urged party unity.
What I can tell conservatives from my perspective is that Im not only comfortable with Romney, Im excited about the possibility of him possibly becoming our nominee, DeMint told reporters on Capitol Hill.
At a time when the Romney campaigns Etch-A-Sketch gaffe once again is raising questions about the former Massachusetts governors conservative bona fides, DeMints vote of confidence could help Romney solidify his support with the partys base.
His leadership skills, the fact that he hasnt lived his life in Washington theres a lot to like there, said DeMint, who is in his second term in the Senate after serving six years in the U.S. House.
DeMint said he had no immediate plans to do an endorsement but, without naming them, the S.C. Republican urged former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas to re-evaluate their campaigns.
DeMint did not say the other Republican candidates should drop out. But he came close.
We all need to look at this presidential primary and encourage the candidates to do a little self-reflection here. Whats good for the country? DeMint said. The sooner we can make a decision, I think the sooner we can focus on the real problem, which is (President Barack) Obama.
DeMint made it clear that he views a possible contested presidential convention this summer as harmful to Republicans chances of defeating the Democrat Obama.
They can drag it out to the convention if they want, but I think if some of them look at where they are, the best thing they can do is maybe look at throwing their support behind the one who might be our nominee and thats beginning to look like Romney, DeMint said.
DeMint was a national co-chairman of Romneys unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid. He has not endorsed a Republican presidential candidates this time around, saying he instead is focused on electing conservatives to the U.S. Senate and doesnt want to alienate potential donors by endorsing the wrong candidate.
South Carolinas other U.S. senator, Lindsey Graham, a Seneca Republican, also has not endorsed a GOP contender.
Gingrich scored his only primary or caucus win outside his home state of Georgia when he won South Carolinas GOP presidential primary in January.
Other prominent S.C. Republicans, including Gov. Nikki Haley and State Treasurer Curtis Loftis, already have endorsed Romney.