South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint said that he would not be making an immediate endorsement of any of the six candidates participating in tomorrow’s Palmetto Freedom Forum, which he is hosting.
“I’m not counting any of them out at this point,” DeMint said on ABC's "This Week." A nationally regarded leader among Tea Party supporters, DeMint added that he would not use the forum to “anoint any one particular candidate” as the standard-bearer of that group.
Earlier on CNN’s “State of the Union,” DeMint said that “there's no one in the group that I couldn’t support as our nominee, and there’s no one who would not do a better job than our current president.”
Declared candidates Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich are participating.
Each candidate will take the stage individually and in alphabetical order, first making introductory remarks and then answering questions from DeMint, Republican Rep. Steve King (IA) and Dr. Robert George, the founder of the conservative group American Principles Project and a Princeton University professor.
On ABC, DeMint cut Perry some slack when asked if he was concerned Perry’s political past as a Democrat who supported Al Gore for president in 1988.
“We know people change,” DeMint answered. “Reagan was a Democrat, and I want to look at what the governor has done, as governor as Texas.”
Rep. Steve King (R-IA), reached by telephone earlier this week, said he had some questions about Perry’s record as well.
“Hopefully we’ll get some real position statements out of Governor Perry,” King said, specifically noting “quotes that showed up sometimes back in 2001,” the year Perry signed into law the Texas DREAM Act, which allows in-state tuition for college students born to undocumented parents.
Former South Carolina GOP chairman Barry Wynn, who is also on the forum’s advisory committee, said Perry’s two big appearances this week -- first at the forum and then at the NBC/Politico debate in California on Wednesday -- will both be crucial for Perry as the first time many voters will see him explain his policy positions.
“I think the performance in South Carolina and two days later in California will really be the first time a lot of people say, ‘Oh, well I like this guy, now how does he perform? So I think this is going to be very important for him,” said Wynn, a top fundraiser for George W. Bush, who also served as Rudy Giuliani’s South Carolina chairman in 2008.
DeMint said on CNN that the forum was a chance for him to “find the candidates who understand the principles of American exceptionalism and have the character, the courage, and the confidence to actually lead the greatest nation in the world.”
King said he’s particularly interested to ask candidates about their specific plans for the economy. He said that while he’s ”hearing from each of the candidates on what’s wrong with Obama has done economically,” he’s not seeing the full package.
“What would be all the steps, how would they flesh this out, where are all the components of an economic policy?” he asked. “That’s not been addressed very well by any of the candidates at this point.”