Sen. DeMint defends his role in upset in Nebraska's GOP Senate primary

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is not apologizing for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars through his leadership fund in Nebraska’s Senate Republican primary, despite criticism from a Republican colleague.

Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns (R) said Wednesday that DeMint should be careful about jumping into primaries in states where he does not fully understand the political dynamics.

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DeMint said Wednesday that money spent by his Senate Conservatives Fund helped make the Nebraska GOP primary competitive, which helped the winner, state Rep. Deb Fischer.

Fischer defeated state Attorney General Jon Bruning, who was considered the frontrunner in the race until late, and Don Stenberg, the former state attorney general.

“If we had waited until late, Bruning would have won by 20 points,” he said.

“In Nebraska, we got in early because there was a conservative in Don Stenberg and there was one we did not feel would fare well in the general election in Bruning,” he said. “If we hadn’t gotten involved there would have never been a race.”

DeMint’s leadership PAC invested more than $900,000 in Stenberg by acting as a conduit for donors and making independent expenditures for him.

Johanns criticized DeMint indirectly on Wednesday.

“I think you have to be very careful entering into the political fray in areas quite honestly you don’t understand,” Johanns said when asked if there was a message for DeMint in Stenberg’s loss, according to National Journal.

DeMint said Wednesday he was pleased with the outcome of the race.

“I think we’re going to have a really great candidate,” he said. “I think we had a good outcome there.”

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“I’m not just willing to sit back and have K Street and a lot of the big interests decide who are candidates are,” he added.

DeMint said spending by his PAC helped Fischer because Bruning had a big lead in the polls and fundraising at the start of the race.

“I think she’ll tell you that and we all know that. Unless we had created a race, she would have never had a race,” he said.

But DeMint says he’s not looking to take credit.

“It’s only when we have a good candidate and an active grassroots, all we can do is add a little bit of a spotlight,” he said. “I’ve never said I was a kingmaker and I’m not. We don’t need any more kings up here.”

DeMint’s staff kept in contact with Fischer’s campaign during the race.

He received a call from Fischer late Wednesday afternoon and discussed setting up a meeting.

“We just want to get together and talk about how we can help,” he said.

Senate Conservatives Fund might have endorsed Fischer but she returned the PAC’s questionnaire after it had already backed Stenberg. 


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