South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, who has built a political brand for himself in recent years by searching out conservative GOP Senate candidates, is now sticking his nose in the GOP vice presidential search.
DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund is hosting a poll on its website asking supporters who they would like to see as the party’s No. 2 on the ticket this fall, using The Fix’s list of the 10 frontrunners in the so-called “veepstakes.”
With 3,000 votes (and counting) in, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is the clear leader with more than 40 percent of the vote, and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is second with 23 percent, according to results provided to The Fix.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is the only other candidate among the 10 to crack double digits, taking 10 percent of the vote. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — a favorite of many pundits for the slot — is at 7 percent.
Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and John Thune (R-S.D.), meanwhile, are both at less than 2 percent — perhaps a signal that they’re not lighting any fires in the conservative community or at least not yet.
The poll, of course, is not scientific, and the results should be taken with a healthy grain of salt. But the conservative fervor for Rubio and Ryan is certainly notable as Mitt Romney begins his vice presidential search (he tapped longtime aide Beth Myers to lead the effort on Monday).
With his Senate endorsments, DeMint has often chosen insurgent candidates running against safer and often less-conservative choices of the establishment. One of these candidates last cycle was Rubio.
And if DeMint tries to steer Romney toward a conservative favorite candidate like Rubio or Ryan rather than a safer pick like Portman or Thune, it’s not unreasonable to think he could have some impact.
DeMint spokesman Matt Hoskins did not say whether DeMint would be actively involved in the GOP’s VP search going forward.
But given that the race for the Senate is so close and the chamber could wind up in a 50-50 tie after the 2012 election (or even 51-49 or 52-48 in favor of one party or the other), the vice president could play a role in breaking ties in the Senate. And that’s certainly something DeMint cares about.
Below are the full results so far:
1. Rubio: 40 percent
2. Ryan: 23 percent
3. Jindal: 10 percent
4. Christie: 7 percent
5. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez: 5.5 percent
6. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels: 5 percent
7. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell: 3 percent
8. Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty: 2 percent
9. Thune: 2 percent
10. Portman: 1 percent