DeMint: Tea Party slate will get Republicans to a Senate majority

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), often referred to as a "kingmaker" for Tea Party candidates, said that it's because of that slate of candidates, and not in spite of it, that Republicans would get to a 60-vote majority in the upper chamber.

"The quickest way to 60 votes in the Senate is to have candidates who stand on principle," DeMint said on CNN's "State of the Union."

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He added that by wanting true conservatives to represent the party, "I'm just talking about common-sense people who don't think that balancing a checkbook is a radical idea."

DeMint said that he believed the energy for Tea Party candidates extended beyond the movement's rallies. "For everyone who takes up a sign and goes to a Tea Party rally there are thousands of Americans who agree with them," he said.

"I think the slate of candidates we have for the Senate... is as representative of America as we've seen in a long time," he said.

That includes Delaware's Christine O'Donnell, he said, who scored a surprise win over Rep. Mike Castle (R) on Tuesday and made many commentators and lawmakers say that a seat that was once a shoo-in for Republicans had now become winnable for the Democrats.

DeMint said she would be able to ride a wave of excitement "from people who like an underdog."


"When they get the sense that this gal has taken on everybody she's going to surprise people in the general election too," he said, adding that lots of money had been spent in the primary "trying to make her look silly."

DeMint stood by his prediction of an "earthquake" election in November, predicting that Republicans will take back the House and see a "number of new senators come in."

"The only reason we have a chance at the majority right now... is the candidates I've been supporting," he said.

When asked who he'd like to see as a potential 2012 presidential nominee, though, DeMint opted for a Republican governor who backed Castle over O'Donnell.

"I'm looking for someone that's almost like Gov. [Chris] Christie in New Jersey, who's willing to tell people the hard truth," DeMint said, adding that he's focused on the 2010 vote first.