Outgoing GOP Sen. Jim DeMint took a jab at House Speaker John Boehner, telling radio shock jock Rush Limbaugh on Thursday that he might help dump the Republican leader.
DeMint, a Tea Party favorite, made big news earlier this week when he announced that as of Dec. 31, he was leaving the Senate to head the hard-right Heritage Foundation.
The South Carolina lawmaker, alongside current Heritage Foundation President Ed Fuelner, joined Limbaugh for the interview Thursday.
“I think it’s safe to say Boehner is not forcing either of you guys out, right?” Limbaugh asked.
Fuelner responded, “That’s pretty true,” while DeMint joked, “It might work a little bit the other way around.”
The GOP is a party filled with tension these days, as conservatives continue to push the party to the right, even after their big loss in 2012. DeMint was behind many failed right-wing Senate challengers in 2010 and 2012, like Christine O’Donnell, Ken Buck and Richard Mourdock, and many blame DeMint and his cohort for blowing the GOP's chances of retaking the Senate. And in the House, Speaker Boehner is dumping a number of extreme, right-leaning lawmakers fromcommittee assignments.
In many ways, DeMint and Boehner represent two directions for the GOP: a continued path toward the right with DeMint, or a gentle swerving toward bipartisan cooperation with Boehner.
On Friday's Hardball, former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele dismissed DeMint's remarks about Boehner as " just idle banter with Rush Limbaugh,” insisting there is no connection between DeMint’s new post and Boehner losing his job.
DeMint, said Steele, is “setting the stage for what’s to come. He’s going to go out, he’s got a new platform. He’s got an elevated voice, if you will. He’s not one of 100, he’s now really representing a lot of conservative voices around the country.”
During the radio interview, DeMint told Limbaugh that he hoped his new job would allow him to get more Americans interested in the GOP.
“After spending most of life in advertising and marketing and research, I know that we can do a whole lot better job of convincing the American people, winning their hearts and souls, and if we do that, then we’re going to be more effective inside of Congress and more effective at election time," he said.
MNSBC political analyst Joy Reid of The Grio, insisted DeMint has been trying to argue all along to Americans that what matters is "the packaging." Reid pointed to Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. During his campaign, DeMint was the first sitting senator to back Rubio's long-shot candidacy.
"You take a guy who himself is Latino [like Rubio], and you say to Latinos ‘look at this guy, he’s brown like you’ but when he starts to speak he has to say the same doctrinaire script and stay party line…He can put it in a nicer package. That’s what Jim DeMint has been trying to do," said Reid.