OTR Interviews

DeMint: Republicans are looking for someone who's a fighter, will take it to Pres. Obama and the media

Sen. Jim DeMint reflects on the fallout from Gingrich's victory in the S.C. primary and the latest in the 2012 presidential race


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 23, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tea Party leader Senator Jim DeMint endorsed Governor Romney in 2008, but not this year. So what happened? Senator DeMint, author of "Now or Never: Saving America From Economic Collapse," spoke to us just a short time ago.


VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you, sir.

SEN. JIM DEMINT, R-S.C.: Hey, Greta. It's good to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, in the year 2008, you endorsed Governor Mitt Romney for president. This year, you're not endorsing anyone. What happened? Why aren't you endorsing Governor Romney this time?

DEMINT: Well, it's a totally different race this time, different people in it, different issues. And I like things about all of our candidates. And Greta, I'm keeping my focus on Senate conservatives fund. It doesn't matter who's president. If we have the same Senate we do today, we're going to continue push this country off a cliff.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, in terms of the group of four who are currently slated to be one of your nominees, who is the most conservative?

DEMINT: I think they're all espousing conservative principles in various ways. I'm not sure it's going to come down to the differences on issues or who's most conservative. I think what we saw last week in South Carolina is Republicans particularly are looking for a president they know will take it to the media when they're not telling the truth, will take it to President Obama when he's trying to manage our economy and run us into the ground.

We want a fighter as president, and I found that that's what people want in Senate candidates, too. I think they'll all do the job, but we need someone we know who's going to really stand up because I think a lot of us believe this could be our last chance to turn our country around, and we have to have a president who not only has conservative principles but knows how to get them done.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, in terms of, quote, "taking to the media," the first thing I think of as I'm trying to sort of isolate who you may favor or vote for yourself -- I realize you're not endorsing -- but "take it to the media" -- I think it's pretty clear that Speaker Gingrich is taking us in the media to the woodshed. Would you agree with that?

DEMINT: I would, but that doesn't mean the other three can't do it. I think it's important that these candidates tell the truth about Republicans, and when we had the majority, we didn't do what we said we were going to do. We spent too much. We have to convince Americans we're going to re-earn their trust. We're going to do what we say. And the candidates need to get that truth out on the table so people will believe us.

So I think all of these candidates have it in them to take it to the media, but I think Americans need to see that. And last week, we saw it from Newt Gingrich. The question now is will we see it from Mitt Romney? Will we see it from Rick Santorum?

I think we've seen it from Ron Paul all along the way. And one of the things Newt did that made a lot of sense is he started recognizing monetary policy was one of the big issues. And he took that issue from Ron Paul. I think that helped Newt. It probably diminished Ron Paul a little bit.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you say they all have it in them and they all talk about it. Do any of four -- or who of the four, I should say, has the production record that supports your conservative values?

DEMINT: Well, I know you're getting me to -- trying to get me to favor one of them, but...

VAN SUSTEREN: No, I'm not trying to get you to favor, I'm trying to isolate who it is that's most in line with Senator Jim DeMint.

DEMINT: I think I -- if I could put together a package of the four of them, I could give you one perfect candidate, but we don't have one. So all of them have some great things about them. Some of them have things that they've done that I disagree with. But they'll all be good presidents, if we have a good Congress, particularly a good Senate.

And again, that's why I want to try to deliver a conservative majority in the Senate because the president doesn't write the budgets. We do, as far as passing the spending bills. And the legislation is going to come out of the Congress.

But I think you're going to see this thing change. I don't like the negative attacks now that are going on. I criticized Newt a few weeks ago when he was going after Romney for Bain Capital. And I'm criticizing Newt this week -- or excuse me, Mitt for going after Newt in a very negative way.

We want to see the vision that these candidates have. We want to hear the passion. And we want to know that they're willing to fight for what has to be done here in our country.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, I don't think I'm going to get the answer, but I would have asked you who's the least imperfect out of the group. You said there's no perfect one. I'm not going to go there.

But let me turn to another issue. Governor Romney has been -- has now said he's going to release his tax returns. Two questions. Should the candidates have to produce their tax returns now? Do you think that is a wise thing, all of them? And secondly, is one year enough to get a picture of someone's tax return, or should each candidate produce three years, for example?

DEMINT: Greta, I think the financial disclosure that we all have to release that tells people what we own, particularly stocks that might be subject to some of the decisions -- those things are important for people to know those things. But the tax returns -- you know, the IRS determines whether those are legal or whatever. I frankly don't care, but the fact is, it's a precedent that was set by Mitt Romney's father. And Mitt either should have said, I'm not going to do it or I'm going to do it in April or I'm going to do it now. But to be indecisive about it is what caused his problems, I believe.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, should they -- should -- I take from what you say that he should release them, number one, but that Governor -- Speaker Gingrich released only one year. Should the candidates, if they're going to release anything, give us sort of -- not just a simple snapshot of one year, but give us, for instance, three years so we have a better picture of the financials?

DEMINT: Well, it's a good question, Greta, because as you know, one year can hide a lot of things. If we really want to go down that road, which I don't think we need to- but once you start talking about releasing tax returns, people are going to demand you do it for five or ten years or go back to seven years the IRS demands that we keep them.

I think it's another deterrent to get good people in the race because people can look at your tax return and make all kinds of accusations that are not relevant. But again, we've gone down that road. And one year is not going to tell you that much. So if you're going to do it, if you're going to make a big deal out of it, you should release three to five years.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir. And your state certainly kept us busy last weekend. It's on to Florida. Thank you, sir.

DEMINT: Thank you, Greta.