Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), one of the most prized endorsements in the 2012 presidential race, said Sunday that a new balanced budget pledge is now a litmus test for his support and that he had ruled out backing former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr.

DeMint, a leader of the tea party movement in Washington and a popular voice among grassroots activists across the country, said he is urging allies in the early voting states to abstain from committing to presidential candidates to see how they handle upcoming fiscal issues.

“I’m working with people in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, to try to get a lot of people to hold back and not commit so we can see how they respond to this debt ceiling, the balanced budget and some of the things that we’re going to face here over the next few months,” DeMint said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think we’ll know who our candidate is by how they lead based on what we’re doing here.”

DeMint said candidates must sign a new “Cut, Cap, Balance” pledge for his support. The pledge urges members of Congress to oppose any increase in the debt limit unless several conditions are met, including significant cuts in federal spending next year and thereafter, new spending caps and passage of a constitutional amendment to balance the budget.

Huntsman, a former ambassador to China under President Obama, has said he would not sign the pledge. On Wednesday, he told CNN: “Other than the Pledge of Allegiance, I don’t do a whole lot of pledges.”

Although he declined to sign the pledge, Huntsman has repeatedly said that he supports an amendment to balance the federal budget, and his campaign notes that he has a record of balancing budgets in Utah.

On Sunday, DeMint told “State of the Union’s” Candy Crowley that Huntsman has lost his support over the issue. “I won’t support any candidate who does not support balancing the budget,” DeMint said. “So for me, he’s out.”

So far, four presidential candidates have signed the pledge: former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) and businessman Herman Cain.