NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — Republican U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina said Tuesday he has no plans now to seek re-election in 2016 but doesn't think being a lame duck will muffle his voice in calling for the nation to get its finances in order.
"I'm not ruling anything out," he told reporters after speaking to a group of about 300 Republicans from Charleston and Berkeley counties. "But I've always said since the first time I ran I believe in term limits and right now my plan is to serve two terms and then go do something else."
DeMint said he might run if there is an extraordinary situation, but did not say specifically what that situation might be.
"I'm not closing the door, but I want some of our new congressmen to perhaps think about replacing me," he added.
South Carolina elected four new Republican congressmen last fall. All are conservatives like DeMint who opposed the recent congressional action that raised the federal debt ceiling.
DeMint said being a lame duck should not make him less effective in demanding that the nation do a better job handling its finances.
"The way the Senate is set up, more and more they're going to have to deal with me until the last day I'm there," DeMint said. "Frankly, I could probably have more influence on the outside with the Senate Conservatives Fund where I would not have to be as delicate, if you could call me that, with some of our incumbents."
The fund is a political action committee chaired by DeMint. Its website says it is "dedicated to electing strong conservatives to the United States Senate." It is not affiliated with the GOP, nor does it support liberal Republicans.
DeMint urged the crowd to carefully evaluate the Republican presidential candidates who will be visiting in the coming months ahead of the South Carolina's GOP primary, which is the first in the South.
DeMint said he won't endorse a candidate until this winter.
"I want this to play out," he said. "I found last time I endorsed early and they stopped listening."
"Keep your powder dry" as you review the candidates, he advised. "How do they weigh in? Are they really fighting for a balanced budget? What are they going to do about spending for next year? Do they have what it takes?"