Just when it looked like Georgia’s 2014 GOP primary might attract the most national attention, with Sen. Saxby Chambliss facing a likely challenge from his right, South Carolina upped the ante significantly. Jim DeMint, the Palmetto State’s arch-conservative senator, said today he is resigning his seat to take over as leader of the Heritage Foundation.
Initial reports are that South Carolina law calls for the governor to appoint DeMint’s replacement, who would then stand for election in 2014. The state’s other senator, Lindsey Graham, is also up for re-election that year and there’s speculation that he’ll also be challenged by another Republican. That could make for quite a twin-bill in South Carolina’s 2014 GOP primary — not to mention that Gov. Nikki Haley faces some dissension from within her own ranks and might not cruise to re-election herself. Graham and even Chambliss might be breathing a little easier this morning, knowing the activists’ attention and money will now be spread around a little more widely.
Meanwhile, all eyes will be on Haley for her choice as DeMint’s replacement. DeMint is renowned as one of the Senate’s most conservative members and a leader for the tea-party senators elected since 2010. While the Senate will remain under Democratic control for at least two more years, the difference between a replacement as ideologically firm as DeMint and one closer to Graham could loom large — particularly given Democrats’ threatened reform of the filibuster.
– By Kyle Wingfield