HH: I am joined now by United States Senator Jim DeMint. He’s from the great state of South Carolina, where in a very little time, ten Republicans will take the stage to be posed questions by Brit Hume, Chris Wallace and Wendell Goler on the Fox News Channel. We’ll of course bring you a complete debate analysis tomorrow. Senator DeMint, good to talk with you again.
JD: Good to be with you, Hugh.
HH: Before we plunge into debate speak, I want to go over a press release issued just moments ago by Mitch McConnell, earlier this afternoon, about blasting the Fairness Doctrine, and the attempt by Democrats to bring censorship back to the radio. Jim DeMint, do you agree with Senator McConnell’s position that this is anathema to 1st Amendment freedom?
JD: Oh, definitely. That is, it’s part of an effort we’re seeing in a number of ways. It’s not unlike some hate crimes legislation that gets at hate speech. It’s not unlike the, basically the gag order that are on Churches now, that keeps them from getting involved in politics or losing their tax exempt status. A lot of traditional speech, conservative speech is under attack, and this is another way to come at it, but it would basically get, if you took any kind of position, leaned one way or another, that you would be liable. And the last thing we need is to put a gag on the free speech in this country, and this is what this very poorly named Fairness Doctrine is. It’s basically big brother trying to control what’s said in America.
HH: Now Senator DeMint, obviously, the House is much more radical than the Senate, and the majority much larger in the House than the Senate, one person majority for the Democrats, and they don’t have the filibuster. Filibuster is appropriate for legislation. Do you think any Fairness Doctrine bill would be filibustered?
JD: Oh, definitely. I don’t think we would let it on the floor on the Senate side. I mean, we’ve got a few of our Republicans who might be weak in the knees, because it’s one of those things like hate crimes, it sounds oh, yeah, we need to be for hate crimes legislation, and we need to be for the Fairness Doctrine. But this is a real attack on free speech in America, and I think we could keep it off the floor for any kind of consideration in the Senate.
HH: That’s great news. Now Senator DeMint, let’s turn the debate tonight. It’s going to be another cattle call. Are you going to be in the room?
JD: Yes, I am. I’m going to be sitting in the Mitt Romney section, and rooting for my candidate. But it’s quite a spectacle. You should see it here with trucks from media, from all over the country, and a lot of booths from candidates and interest groups, and so you’re going to have ten podiums up on the stage tonight, and it’s going to be hard for the candidates to break through.
HH: I was at the Reagan Library ten, twelve days ago when they did the first debate, same situation, same kind of carnival, really, atmosphere. A lot of fun for broadcasters, but of course, once you’ve won of these things, as Mitt Romney did last week, they put a big ol’ target on your back. True or false?
JD: (laughing) Yeah, they will. I think he’s got such a better mastery of a lot of different issues, and he’s done a lot of analysis, that I think folks in politics maybe don’t drill down as deep as he does, but I’m quite confident he can handle the issues well, and people need to see that he’s got a broad scope of understanding, and that it’s not just one issue or two, which the media’s trying to corner him on one or two things. This is a chance for him to show America what he really knows and what he believes, and really how strong he is as a leader.
HH: Now South Carolina polling shows him in fifth place, actually, behind two candidates who aren’t even declared, Fred Thompson and Newt Gingrich.
JD: Yeah, I think that poll was done by McCain’s pollsters, so I think I’ve seen a lot of different numbers, and the fact is, when we had a primary in 2000, and McCain was 42 or something like that…
JD: I think he’s down to 25, Rudy’s slipped some, and what we’re seeing now is that Mitt Romney is coming up in the polls that we’re looking at, and a lot of folks are still talking about getting in, like Newt Gingrich and Fred Thompson, and that’ll change it for a while. But Hugh, I’ve watched a lot of elections, and particularly the presidential level, and you’ve got to have a good organization, and Mitt Romney is showing his leadership skills by the organization he’s put together around the country, and just how well they’re running things. It’s not just raising money, but it’s grassroots support, he’s won practically every straw poll in South Carolina. So the people who are paying attention in South Carolina are picking Mitt Romney.
HH: Now what about the energy level around Senator McCain, and the money around Senator McCain? We keep hearing that the money’s just not there, Senator DeMint.
JD: I don’t think it is. I’m not an expert on his campaign. He’s a friend of mine, and I think he’s a good Senator, great American, but obviously, I’ve picked someone else, so I’m not really an expert on his campaign. But from what I feel here in South Carolina, the momentum for McCain has certainly waned, people are starting to look at Rudy’s positions on issues, and they’re looking in other directions, and I think it’s up to the other candidates to prove that they can be strong, conservative leaders. And I’m rated the most conservative member of the United States Senate, so I’m telling folks if you like how I vote, you’ll love Mitt Romney.
HH: Now Jim DeMint, that’s true, that’s a good endorsement. Some of the national analysts, and again, this is sort of conventional wisdom for people who are lazy, say oh, he can’t win in South Carolina because he’s a Mormon, and that’s the home of Bob Jones University, and very conservative fundamentalists. How often do you hear the Mormon thing talked about in South Carolina?
JD: Well, it’s talked about more on the outside than it is here. I think in the beginning, there were questions about it, but Romney’s done a great job of showing that it’s not religion we should push in politics, but it’s our value system, and it’s the values that unite us. I mean, his values are exactly the same as mine. His religion is different, and so are Catholics and Jews. But our values are very much the same. And he’s not just talking values, he’s lived it out. I mean, his family values are clear, he’s been married 38 years, five sons, and character and integrity in business, a real volunteer spirit. I think he can exemplify what he talks about. In Washington, talk is cheap, and I’m looking for somebody who’s really proven he can do it. And I think Mitt Romney’s at the top of that list.
HH: Last question, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina. Florida has pushed its presidential primary way up now, way up into January. Does that affect South Carolina’s status? Is South Carolina going to do checkerboard and jump them?
JD: Yes, our law says that we move ours back. We will be the first in the South, and so we’ll go back to Halloween if we have to. But we’ll be the first in the South.
HH: Now right now, is Florida five days after South Carolina’s scheduled? Or is it the same day scheduled now?
JD: I think it’s five days after. I haven’t heard the latest. But right now, I believe ours is in mid-January.
HH: And so you will go first in a primary, not a caucus day, correct?
HH: All right. South Carolina, big, big debate tonight. Senator Jim DeMint, thanks for joining us.
End of interview.