Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney got a boost Thursday from Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a staunch conservative and a key backer of the tea party on Capitol Hill.
After a meeting with Romney, DeMint told reporters that although he is not endorsing a candidate in the race, he is more than satisfied with the idea of Romney becoming the GOP nominee.
“I can tell conservatives from my perspective is that, I’m not only comfortable with Romney, I’m excited about the possibility of him possibly being our nominee,” DeMint said. “Again, this is not a formal endorsement and I do not intend to do that right now, but I just think we just need to look at where we are.”
He also said he thought the primary had gone on long enough and indicated without saying so that it’s time for Romney’s rivals, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and House Speaker Newt Gingrich, to consider dropping out, suggesting that they weigh “what’s good for our country.”
DeMint's comments were a discouraging sign for Santorum especially, who has emerged as the strongest conservative alternative to Romney. DeMint's seal of approval will help Romney battle impressions that he is not a true conservative.
At a fundraiser for Romney earlier in the day on Capitol Hill, Rep. Jeff Flake, a conservative from Arizona, said, “Some people want to make it a race all the way to the convention. It's pretty much settled. You'll have people throw a lot of things up, but it's pretty much settled.”