Sen. Jim DeMint says Republicans must be “rock solid” conservatives to win in 2010, and predicted a national “army” will rise up next year.
TPMDC listened in last night on a call run by DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund as they ticked off the races they are watching and detailed the conservative direction they think Republicans need to head toward.
DeMint said he wanted to “harness the energy” he saw during the tea parties.
He said he wants to show that “anywhere in the country,” a “principled Republican with conservative principles” can win.
“That is going to change politics in America,” he said. “You’re going to see an army of Americans fighting for freedom in this next election.”DeMint asked supporters to remember “Senate seats are not about a particular state. Every vote I take is about our country, it’s not about South Carolina.”
As we reported earlier, DeMint added California assemblyman Chuck DeVore to his list of approved Republican candidates.
Complicating the 2010 picture, today the National Republican Senatorial Committee told ABC News they won’t spend money in contested GOP primaries.
Erick Erickson, editor of RedState.com, co-hosted the call and outlined the latest polls and primary dates in each of the 8 states the fund is closely watching. (More on Erickson here.)
Erickson added that donations help but volunteering also is important.
“Your word of mouth, volunteering for candidates and prayer for the candidates is extremely important,” Erickson said. “You can’t give money but you sure can pray. … Lately as I’ve been telling everybody, ‘Victory or death.'”
Organizers said at one point there were 15,000 callers on the line, though tech problems forced many people off. Organizers described it as a “not your average conference call” since thousands of supporters participated in snap polls on each race and were allowed to offer live feedback during the call.
“We’ve got enough people on the call tonight alone to make a difference,” DeMint said. “If we got behind just a few candidates we can make a difference.”
The conservative candidate lost in New York’s 23rd Congressional district, but that wasn’t the topic last night as DeMint outlined the need for a conservative candidate in the competitive senate races in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Texas.
The fund has taken sides now in California, Florida (Marco Rubio over Gov. Charlie Crist) and Pennsylvania, where Pat Toomey will challenge the winner of the Democratic primary.
Among the poll questions asked of callers on the line was why Republicans lost control of Congress, with 98 percent believing it was because the party “abandoned its principles.”
Here is the scorecard of how the fund views the 2010 Senate landscape.
The primary for a candidate to challenge Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) is May 18 next year, but it’s “not really clear if we have a solid conservative in the race who can mount a credible campaign,” DeMint said.
DeMint endorsed DeVore.
DeMint said it will “be a good state for us” to target Sen. Michael Bennet, who was appointed to fill the seat after Ken Salazar was elevated to be Secretary of the Interior. He said the senator is “vulnerable” for backing new government spending.
There are two candidates vying for the nomination in the Aug. 10 primary, former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton and Ken Buck. On the call DeMint and Erickson noted that Norton supported Sen. John McCain for president and has support from the Washington establishment.
The fund backs Rubio in the Aug. 24 primary for this open senate seat, mostly because of the stimulus battle when Crist supported President Obama but also calling Rubio “the kind of conservative that would make all of us proud.”
“If you’ve heard him speak it will get you excited,” DeMint said, predicting Rubio will “surprise people” around the country.
Erickson compared the race to the NY-23 election, saying conservatives won’t “let the establishment dictate” which candidates get the nomination.
“When we can win on the right we should go right,” he said, calling Crist “liberal” and saying he is “Barack Obama’s favorite Republican.”
DeMint said there are “two good candidates” in Kentucky, but seemed to be leaning toward Rand Paul over Trey Grayson.
Erickson noted that Grayson was once a Democrat and now is the “favorite” of the Republican establishment while Paul (Ron Paul’s son) is “anything but an insider.”
DeMint added that Paul is “not a radical rightwing nut” and is “dead-on” when it comes to principles of freedom. The snap poll of callers mostly supported Paul, who has a slight lead in the early official polls.
Erickson said defeating Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would “send a message” and “hamper Obama” in the second half of his term.
DeMint said this was one of his favorite races, and he backs Toomey to challenge the winner of the Democratic primary between Sen. Arlen Specter and Rep. Joe Sestak.
“I know he’ll stand with me on the very tough issues in Washington,” DeMint said, noting he’s doing a Toomey fundraiser on Friday.
One of the callers told DeMint they want to replace retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison with a “conservative,” adding “We don’t want an establishment Republican.”
Charlie Cook shifted some of these races today, calling both Colorado and Pennsylvania toss ups after taking them out of the “lean Dem” category. He also moved Arkansas from “likely” Democratic to “lean Dem.”