U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) rushes past reporters to the floor before the Senate failed to pass legislation approved last month by the House that would cut $57 billion from the federal budget on March 9. (Chip Somodevilla/GETTY IMAGES)

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who shook up Republican politics in 2010 by challenging the establishment, said Saturday there’s room for more candidates in the 2012 Republican presidential race and predicted the field could see new and surprising entrants in the coming months, though he said again he will not run.

Noting that the race has been slow to develop, DeMint said, “I think there are a number of strong candidates looking at it and I think there probably will be more who are waiting to see what happens. And if no one is an immediate frontrunner, I think you might see a whole new cast of Republican candidates within the next couple months.”

DeMint declined to offer names of possible candidates but made a point of saying there are some impressive Republican governors implementing conservative agendas.

“I’m not going to mention any more names but I think there are a number of names bubbling around, particularly governors who have realized that doing basic common sense things tends to inspire Americans today,” he said as he waited to address a conference of conservatives.

Earlier, he singled out three governors for praise. “We need leaders who have the boldness and courage we see from a lot of the voters. They expect people to fight and not back down, to do what they say during a campaign,” he said. “I think that’s what you see across the country, the governors who are inspiring now. [Rick] Scott in Florida, [Scott] Walker in Wisconsin, Chris Christie in New Jersey. Just tell it like it is and taking on the special interests, particularly government unions. It inspires people.”

Last year DeMint clashed with party leaders by backing insurgent and tea party candidates in primary contests against candidates favored by establishment Republicans. He said he would continue to focus on electing conservatives to the Senate, rather than run for president.

He called the 2012 elections — presidential and congressional — vital to the future of the country. “I think the situation is urgent,” he said. “The 2012 election could be America’s last chance and we’ve got to get it right this time.”

But while he will not be a candidate, he offered Iowa activists advice as they decide whom to support. “As we look at possible presidential candidate I want you to ask yourselves, whose side were they on, or were they on the sidelines…. Are they taking a bold stand to challenge Republicans?”