At first blush, it would appear that Jeb Bush's newly-announced support for Mitt Romney was the week's biggest endorsement. After all, the backing of the former Florida governor sends an unmistakable signal that the Republican establishment has concluded there will be no White Knight, so it's time to grudgingly accept Romney as the party's nominee.
But Bush's backing isn't quite as interesting as Sen. Jim DeMint's.
I argued back in October -- and I wasn't alone -- that the right-wing South Carolina senator probably mattered more than any other Republican when it came to the GOP presidential nominating race. DeMint is a kingmaker in the party, with nearly unmatched credibility with the party base, and though he vowed not to make a formal endorsement, the senator's backing, in any capacity, would speak volumes about the far-right's tolerance.
With that in mind, DeMint's comments yesterday seemed like a pretty big deal.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said today that Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney doesn't have to prove his conservative bona fides to him and hinted that it might be time for former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) to consider exiting the race. [...][I]n an interview following a morning closed-door meeting with Romney in Washington, D.C., DeMint said the former governor impressed him with his commitments to fiscal reform and to repealing President Barack Obama's health care law -- as well as the "urgency" the Senator said Romney expressed in his discussions about the challenges facing the country."I've always been very impressed with Mitt. I don't question his conservative credentials. He's, I think, been a great leader in a lot of ways. So I feel very good about him," DeMint told reporters.
DeMint added that he's "excited about the possibility" of Romney winning the nomination.
A year ago, these comments seemed unlikely. DeMint's office distanced the senator from Romney, and DeMint backed off his 2008 support for the former governor. Now, however, he's "excited" about Romney getting the GOP nod.
Given DeMint's role in the party and his influence in the conservative movement, on the heels of FreedomWorks backing off its opposition to the frontrunner earlier this week, it appears we've reached the point in the process in which the right has run out of options, and is resigned to their fate.