Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) thanked conservative activists Thursday for helping the GOP win the battle of “Waterloo.”

Praising attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference for the energy they brought to the party, DeMint recast his famous characterization of President Obama's healthcare push. Without the support of grassroots GOPers, the senator said, “I wouldn’t have the strength to show up at Waterloo, much less win the battle.”

Looking ahead to the 2012 presidential election, DeMint issued a backhanded compliment to Obama. While he can make a “good speech,” DeMint said, “we’ve confirmed you can’t govern from a teleprompter.”

DeMint made light of his recent tension with national Republicans by framing it as a dispute over interpretation of the constitution. “It’s really a fight between those who take their constitutional oath seriously and those who don’t,” he said.

He said the GOP must find candidates who believe in “the principles of freedom” to reclaim the majority in Congress. “I’m really excited about the prospects of conservative Republicans,” he said, pointing to former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio (R), California Senate candidate Chuck DeVore (R) and former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).

DeMint singled out Rubio, who spoke moments before, for being at the head of a “new wave of Republicans.”

“I would rather have 30 Marco Rubios in the Senate than 60 Arlen Specters,” DeMint said, adding the party could expand from a foundation of conservative senators. “If we had 30 Marco Rubios we wouldn’t have to settle for just 30.”