DeMint creates litmus test for 2012 field

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) threatened to withhold his support for Republican presidential candidates unless they sign a pledge requiring fiscal reforms in exchange for raising the debt limit.

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The conservative senator announced his support of the "Cut, Cap, and Balance" Pledge during a speech at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference on Friday and said a drive for support would begin in earnest next week.

The pledge, crafted by several conservative groups, would have signatories vow to oppose raising the debt limit unless three conditions are met: 1. Substantial cuts in spending (Cut), 2. Enforceable spending caps (Cap), and 3. Congressional passage of a balanced budget amendment (Balance).

"I'm telling every presidential candidate, if your name isn't on this list, don't come see me," DeMint said.

Support from the South Carolina senator will be especially coveted by White House contenders, both for the boost in a key primary state and because of his status as a conservative icon within the GOP. DeMint challenged House and Senate candidates to sign the pledge, too.

DeMint's website already lists the names of some House and Senate lawmakers and a pair of congressional candidates who've signed. But he appears poised to push the pledge on Republican presidential candidates in such a way that it could become a litmus test for not only conservatives, but also Democrats who may want to use the pledge against GOP contenders.