COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) heaped praise on Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) Friday night as the Lone Star State lawmaker attended a dinner in his former colleague's honor.

Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). (AP)

DeMint shocked the political establishment by resigning suddenly in December to assume the helm of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. He returned to his home state Friday night as the South Carolina Republican Party honored him at its annual fundraising dinner. During the dinner, Gov. Nikki Haley (R) also bestowed on DeMint the Order of the Palmetto, the state's highest civilian honor.

Cruz was invited to speak at the dinner, stoking speculation that the Texas senator might be considering a run for president in 2016. Adding to the buzz, friends of the senator said this week that he’s mulling a possible presidential bid at the behest of enthusiastic supporters.