Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) thinks Mitt Romney is in store for a big win in South Carolina.
"I think Romney's going to win here," DeMint on Tuesday told conservative radio host Mark Levin of his home-state South Carolina. The next GOP presidential primary vote will be held there on Jan. 21.
DeMint is an influential conservative legislator whose endorsement would be a huge "get" for any candidate, but he has said he does not plan to endorse before the primary process picks a nominee.
He had high praise for Romney, however, who won the New Hampshire primary going away with 39 percent of the vote.
“I was just sitting here listening to the Romney acceptance speech, and he’s hitting a lot of the hot buttons for me about balancing the budget," DeMint said Tuesday.
DeMint also criticized Romney's critics, who this week have attacked him over his record as a job creator at venture capital firm Bain Capital. Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry have both attacked Romney over his work there, calling it "vulture capitalism."
DeMint said Romney's critics were "sounding like Democrats" in their attacks.
"Frankly I’m a little concerned about the few Republicans who have criticized some of what I consider free market principles here,” DeMint said. "We know over half of new businesses fail ... that's part of the creative-destruction process of free enterprise."
DeMint said the nature of the latest attacks has probably hurt the chances of some of Romney's competitors among South Carolina voters.
“Some of the others who might have had an advantage here have really crossed paths, crossed ways with some Republicans as they have criticized free enterprise concepts,” DeMint said. “It’s possible Gingrich or Santorum might make another run at it here. ... I know Perry has been spending some time here, but he doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of traction. And I think after Iowa and New Hampshire, it’s going to be tough.”
DeMint added that South Carolina could "surprise" him and he didn't plan to get involved in the campaigning already taking place in the state.
"I'm going to work on Senate races and let South Carolina decide for itself who they want to nominate," he said.
His comments were first reported by The Daily Caller.