S.C. Sen. DeMint says he won't run in 2016

“Pending some unforeseen circumstances,” U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint told the Columbia Rotary Club Monday he will not run for re-election in 2016.

“If you see the finish line, you can give it all you’ve got,” DeMint said. “There are very few people who have been (in Congress) over 10 years who are still fighting for something. That’s what Americans want us to do, right now, is to fight for the right thing — even if we lose.”

DeMint added he will not run for president, either, quipping, "I think I'm the only senator who does not see a president when I look in the mirror."

“I’m looking for someone better,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been trying to do this year is advocate for the right kind of candidate.”

DeMint will continue that quest Monday, when he hosts a forum with five of the leading Republican presidential candidates: U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Atlanta businessman Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

DeMint said he will endorse a candidate for the GOP nomination but not this year. “I’m just going to see how things play out, particularly how these candidates take positions on what we are doing in Washington.”

DeMint’s endorsement has been highly coveted by Republican candidates, given the Greenville senator’s popularity with the Tea Party and his wealthy political action committee, which helped elect conservative senators in several states last year.

Bachmann made a special trip to South Carolina last month to sign a pledge seeking a constitutional amendment for a balanced federal budget — a pledge that DeMint has turned into a litmus test for his support. But Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, one of the GOP frontrunners, declined an invitation to appear at DeMint’s Labor Day forum, citing a scheduling conflict. (DeMint endorsed Romney in 2008).

Whoever wins DeMint’s endorsement will have to mirror his zeal for smaller government, on full display during his speech to a packed house Monday. DeMint said political Washington is incapable of compromise, comparing it to two opposing teams on a football field.

“You can’t imagine a coach saying, ‘Go out there, compromise with those guys,’ ” DeMint said. “You don’t do that because the other team has a goal, going in the opposite direction of where you’re going, and they are there to beat you.”

“And I hate to say it, but in a lot of ways that’s where we are in Washington.”

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