- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 27, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Much of the conservative Republican base distrusts Mr. McCain because of his support for amnesty legislation in 2006 and 2007, and they are skeptical of his claims to have “gotten the message” that border security and enforcement must come first. On critical economic matters, Mr. McCain has admitted he has more to learn. He needs a running mate who broadly shares his philosophy on spending and foreign-policy issues while counterbalancing his weaknesses on matters like illegal immigration. Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, is someone who might fit the bill.

Mr. DeMint, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was first elected to the House in 1998 and to the Senate in 2004. He has compiled a solid voting record on tax cuts and private Social Security accounts. He took a leadership role in opposing the farm bill - in sharp contrast to much of the Senate Republican leadership. “The way this bloated wasteful bill was forced through is irresponsible and sets a terrible precedent,” Mr. DeMint said. During last year’s debate on an amnesty bill cosponsored by Mr. McCain, Mr. DeMint was tireless in putting together a cogent case against it. He pointed out the many loopholes that would permit millions of illegals to enter and remain in the United States.

In talking with Mr. DeMint, this much is clear: He is no pandering pol who tells voters what they want to hear. In 2004, Mr. DeMint, then a third-term congressman, was locked in a difficult Republican primary battle with former South Carolina Gov. David Beasley, who had greater name recognition. He was leading Mr. DeMint in the polls and campaigning as an advocate of trade protection for the textile industry. Mr. DeMint forthrightly stated his opposition, and came from behind to win. Mr. DeMint is the kind of conservative who would enable Mr. McCain to appeal to moderate voters who do not always support Republicans without alienating the Republican base.

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