SC Senator DeMint speaks to local Republican groups on Hilton Head

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comOctober 8, 2012 

U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, on Hilton Head to address a gathering of Beaufort County Republicans, reaches out to shake hands with an attendee before his speech on Monday at the Royal Sonesta Resort.

JAY KARR, STAFF PHOTO

Washington, D.C., can be a lonely place for U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint., the South Carolina Republican says.

The state's junior senator is loathed by the left and sometimes runs afoul of his own party's leadership, mostly for his support of Tea Party candidates vying to oust other well-entrenched members of the GOP.

It is at times like these that DeMint says he likes going back home.

"Sometimes when I'm in Washington, I feel like I'm always wrong," DeMint said Monday on Hilton Head Island. "So few people seem to agree with me. Then I come home and ... I'm reminded that I'm on the right track. This is where I come to recharge my batteries."

DeMint spoke for nearly an hour Monday to more than 200 people inside a ballroom at the Sonesta Resort, where he had been asked to appear by members of several local GOP organizations, including the Hilton Head Island Republican Club, the Bluffton Tea Party and the First Monday Republican Club.

DeMint is not up for election this year. He was elected to his second, six-year term in the Senate in 2010.

As expected, much of DeMint's speech focused on the Nov. 6 election and his party's efforts to defeat President Barack Obama and reclaim the Senate.

Though many believe South Carolina will again vote Republican -- Sen. John McCain took the state with 54 percent of the vote in 2008 -- DeMint said local Republicans must do their part to sway voters in nearby battleground states like North Carolina and Florida.

"We've got some great candidates," DeMint said. "Some of them are longshots, and some of them are real close. This is a make-or-break election, and we need you to raise a sense of urgency in these other states and get people to vote. The power to save our country is in your hands, not mine."

The crowd in the ballroom sat mostly silent, nodding their heads in agreement as DeMint spoke, but erupted with applause when he mentioned last week's presidential debate. Many observers declared a decisive win for Republican challenger and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

"Anyone who saw that debate knows that we have the best candidate," DeMint said. "Mitt Romney is intellectually superior to (President Barack Obama). In person, Mitt Romney is genuine ... and a man of character. The president comes across on television as winsome and persuasive but in person, he is ... cold."

DeMint answered several questions afterwards from local residents and the media on topics ranging from monetary policy to student loan debt to his recent endorsement of controversial Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin.

Akin sparked a national firestorm in August when he claimed that pregnancies are rare in cases of "legitimate rape" because "the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down."

"For me, it came down to supporting Todd Akin or supporting Harry Reid," DeMint said. "We're trying to win back a Republican majority in the Senate and ... we know how he votes. He's a good man who said something very foolish. He has asked for forgiveness and the polls would suggest that the people of Missouri are willing to forgive him."

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