Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) offered some praise Wednesday for Missouri Senate hopeful Sarah Steelman, who's courting grassroots conservatives ahead of a likely GOP Senate primary in that state.
"I was really impressed," DeMint told The Ballot Box of his meeting with Steelman, who recently jumped into the race against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). "She seems to be right down the line of where we are. She gets the need to roll back government spending and debt, so I was impressed."
Steelman, the former Missouri state treasurer, is staring down the prospect of a primary challenge from former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) and is working to position herself to Talent's right.
Given his high name ID, Talent would likely be the immediate front-runner in a GOP primary. A recent poll showed Talent far ahead of Steelman in a primary contest.
Of the former senator's potential entry into the race, DeMint said, "I haven't heard anything about him running."
The South Carolina Republican said it's too early for an endorsement in the race just yet, but "we're going to follow [Steelman] and see how her campaign goes."
Republican Senate hopefuls are already lining up to court DeMint, working to secure the now-coveted endorsement of his Senate Conservatives Fund, which spent close to $6 million backing GOP Senate challengers this past cycle.
DeMint made high-profile endorsements in a number of Senate primaries during the 2010 cycle, backing Marco Rubio (Fla.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Ken Buck (Colo.) and Sharron Angle (Nev.).
DeMint said he plans on meeting with a number of candidates in the coming months, but he reiterated his commitment not to endorse against any incumbent Republican senators in 2012. That precludes DeMint from supporting Tea Party-backed challengers to centrist Republicans like Sens. Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Dick Lugar (Ind.).
"I will certainly endorse against incumbent Democrats, but no incumbent Republicans," said DeMint. "But we are looking at a lot of races where we'll get involved in primaries when we see a solid conservative."