DeMint Planning Presidential Forum in South Carolina

Posted July 1, 2011 at 11:51am

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Sen. Jim DeMint and a group of Palmetto State political insiders are organizing a presidential candidate forum for Labor Day weekend, according to Republican sources.

The details of the South Carolina forum and its exact timing during the holiday weekend have not yet been released. But multiple GOP sources said invitations could soon go out to the 2012 GOP contenders, requesting they participate in a forum designed to allow each politician to discuss at length their positions on key issues.

The event is not a debate, and candidates might even be given the questions and topics in advance with the goal of facilitating a more substantive discussion than is typical of multicandidate face-offs. According to one source with knowledge of the forum, the event would be sponsored by an independent organization.

DeMint, enormously influential among conservative activists in South Carolina and across the country, would promote and attend the event.

“DeMint is interested in supporting an event like this as part of a broader strategy to help conservatives in early primary states to work together,” the source said. “His goal is to help facilitate ways for the grass roots to get to know and rigorously vet the candidates.”

South Carolina is a crucial test on the GOP nominating calendar, with the state’s primary winner going on to secure the Republican presidential nomination every cycle at least since 1980.

DeMint and the cadre of South Carolina political operatives behind the forum have loosely coalesced under the “Keep Your Powder Dry Caucus,” in the hopes that their neutrality in the primary might allow the best candidate to rise. They also aim to elevate their ability to help a candidate should the group end up endorsing at some point down the road. In 2008, DeMint endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is running again this year.

“DeMint may or may not endorse anyone in the primary, but if he does it will be very late in the campaign,” the knowledgeable source said.