Jim DeMint's departure from the Senate for the Heritage Foundation will put an end to a key promise the confrontational conservative made his peers: Not to attack incumbent senators.
In fact, Senate Republicans up for reelection in 2014 who have tangled with the South Carolina senator may do well to start looking over their shoulders. The South Carolina lawmaker is one of the most popular politicians in the Tea Party movement, which in many ways has mirrored his fiscally and socially minded brand of modern conservatism. Like the Tea Party, DeMint often relishes acting as thorn in the side of leadership, and he became famous for throwing often random seeming monkey wrenches into the legislative process over spending levels.
A vocal opponent of comprehensive immigration reform, DeMint has consistently argued the party needs to become more conservative and ideologically pure if it is to have lasting electoral successes — a message, while popular with activists, runs counter to the conventional wisdom amongst establishment Republicans.
And with the party struggling to find its identity in the wake November’s defeat — including a disastrous run on the Senate — that fight, and DeMint’s place in it, will remain front and center.