Fresh off the heels of announcing his resignation from the United States Senate to lead the Heritage Foundation, DeMint told POLITICO today that he has no plans to involve himself in any active politicking during the 2014 midterm elections.
“I am anxious to get away from the political angles, the partisan angles and focus just on the ideas. Hopefully candidates will embrace these ideas. But part of what we have to do is convince Americans that the ideas are right,” DeMint told POLITICO’s Manu Raju earlier today.
DeMint also gave Raju a flat-out “no” when asked if he would endorse primary candidates in 2014.
DeMint’s announcement that he is sitting 2014 out entirely is surprising considering that many in Washington viewed DeMint’s move to Heritage as one that would both increase the Senator’s ability to bring the Republican Party back to its conservative roots and ensure the Heritage Foundation’s status as the conservative movement’s premiere organization for years to come.
Founded in 1978 by outgoing president Ed Feulner, Heritage, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, has always focused more on policy than politicking. In an attempt to become more involved with grassroots activism, friends of the Foundation established a separate political and lobbying arm known as Heritage Action in 2010 to advocate for conservative policies in Washington, including the repeal of President Obama’s healthcare law. It even hired a former DeMint staffer as its Chief Operating Officer.
“The Heritage Foundation makes [politicians] see the light; Heritage Action makes them feel the heat,” Feulner said of the two groups in 2011.
So it made sense last week when Heritage Chairman Thomas A. Saunders described DeMint’s appointment to President of the organias one that is “turbo-charging our already powerful engine.”
Conservative lawyer Dan Backer, who represents both DeMint protégé Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and his potential successor, Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), told The Huffington Post last Thursday that DeMint’s move to Heritage will make the foundation “directly competitive with Freedomworks…as an intellectual powerhouse targeting the grassroots conservative movement that is embodied in ‘the Tea Party’.”
RedState’s Erick Erickson also commented last week that DeMint “will now be leading the conservative movement from the base of its operations for years to come.” And the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol called the foundation under DeMint “a powerful political force.”
It is clear that the Heritage Foundation will remain a powerful political force under DeMint’s leadership, however, what kind of force it will be is still slightly uncertain.