All-Star Panel: Implications of Sen. DeMint's move to Heritage

All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 6, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. JIM DEMINT, R - SOUTH CAROLINA: The re-election of President Obama was a very clear message that we need to do more as conservatives to convince 100 percent of Americans that our ideas are going to help them in their futures. I honestly believe I can do a lot more on the outside than I can on the inside.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Senator DeMint said as much here on set, leaving the Senate in January. So, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley will appoint a successor there. Actually, Representative Tim Scott is the favorite there, representative from Charleston to succeed DeMint. We don't know who the governor will choose. But why DeMint left and going to the Heritage Foundation is an interesting, surprising choice. We're back with the panel.  Byron, it shocked people in town.

BYRON YORK, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: It shocked me. This is what happens when parties lose, when it doesn't look good. They picked up all of the seats in the Senate in 2010, went backward in 2012, doesn't look great going forward. And some of the leading lights then start looking at other things. This is certainly the case with DeMint. I asked him after your interview here, I asked him, I said look, would you have done this if Republicans had won control of the Senate? And he said if we controlled the Senate and Romney were president, it would be a different question altogether.

BAIER: Juan, you know, some people were critical, saying he did it for the money, you know, leaving the Senate. And as Byron is saying being in the minority is kind of a bummer. Others say this is a brilliant move and he can really influence the party. Erick Erickson of RedState.com said this, quote, "Jim DeMint's power in the conservative movement just grew exponentially. A man who was going to retire in four years anyway will now be leading the conservative movement from its base of operations for years to come." Do you agree with that?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: I think that's true. I think that by taking over Heritage he has now access to money in terms of major donors to the party in a way that could be critical to defining the future of the party and people who are seeking power, to ideas, Heritage is a font of ideas for the conservative movement.

Also, I think that, you know, the Tea Party, which I think is struggling right now. They like Jim DeMint. They are going to listen to Jim DeMint. So Jim DeMint has positioned himself very -- I think, very acutely here.  The question for me, I think this is what Byron was talking about, is I'm just surprised that you would give up power in terms of an elected seat in the U.S. Senate. Those don't come along often. The idea that Mr. Scott might get the seat, a black Republican, he'd be the only black person in the Senate, that's a phenomenal step, too. But we'll see how this plays out. But it's just a shock. I think to everybody that Jim DeMint would voluntarily leave the Senate of the United States.

BAIER: Judge?

ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: Well, I was as surprised as Juan and Byron were and you and people watching us now. But I agree with Juan and Byron, and Erick Erickson. Jim DeMint is a classic, traditional, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan conservative Republican. None of this George Bush compassionate conservative mealy-mouthed stuff. He really believes that the states have a role in government, that the individual is greater than the state. That the government should shrink.  He is now the most powerful Republican in town. He has an extraordinary megaphone. This is not an inside the beltway story. This is a Jim DeMint is the leader of the conservative Republicans in the country story. And they could have a nicer, more true to core values or more articulate spokesman than they have as of today. Ask me if I'm happy.


BAIER: So do you think he is using this platform to possibly run for president?

NAPOLITANO: Well, I know he gave you that very typical humble and diplomatic answer. But I think a lot of people when they learn of his views and ability to articulate them will come to him and ask him to run for president. He also will do something that very few other Republicans will do -- bring the libertarians back into the Republican Party. He understands the enormous number of them between 5 million and 10 million.  Depending upon what poll you look at, and how many votes you calculate. And he embraces a lot of views that libertarians embrace as well.

BAIER: Do you agree with Juan that the Tea Party influenced diminished significantly?

NAPOLITANO: Because John Boehner is afraid of them. That's why he kicked them off of the important committees. In terms of the heartland, I think the Republican voters want real Republicans. They don't want middle of the road compromisers. And Jim DeMint is a real Republican.

YORK: This is an extremely non-South Carolina thing to do. Ernest Hollings served for a million years in the Senate. Strom Thurmond served for a million-and-a-half years in the Senate, until he was 100 years old. And so this is a very shocking thing for him the do. As far as the succession is concerned, I had been told today that DeMint asked Governor Haley specifically to appoint Tim Scott as the successor. Just a few minutes ago he said no, I didn't. I didn't do it.

BAIER: He wouldn't talk about it. Which is why I didn't ask him.

YORK: I talked about the congressional delegation. He clearly wants a successor to come from the current Republican Congressional delegation. But I think there is a lot of momentum building already for Tim Scott.

BAIER: That is it for the panel, but stay tuned to see who is challenging Justin Bieber for Twitter supremacy.     

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