News that South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint will travel to Iowa on March 26 to address a conservative forum organized by Rep. Steve King is sparking another round of chatter that DeMint might launch a dark horse bid for the White House in 2012.
The Republican gadfly has been adamant in denying such intentions for more than a year – just Wednesday, he gave CNN's Wolf Blitzer a flat "No" when asked if he plans to seek his party's presidential nomination.
But the ground may be shifting in DeMint-world, and several of his closest advisers and political confidantes are now telling CNN that he is at least open to a presidential bid if a suitably conservative candidate fails to emerge from the early and wide-open GOP field.
The operative question is what DeMint's definition of "suitably conservative" is. Rumored candidates who I'd suspect fit the bill: Palin, Bachmann, Pence. Any others? I suppose you'd have to ask DeMint. Is it time to add the South Carolina Senator to our Presidential Straw Poll?
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is reportedly considering skipping the Iowa caucuses altogether to focus his attention on a state in his own backyard: New Hampshire, where John McCain's resurgence crystalized in 2008. The Romney camp is still denying that he's a candidate. Um, sure. Mitt was last spotted having dinner with Chris Christie, who downplayed the meeting. (Christie, by the way, spent some time earlier in the week burnishing his pro-life credentials).
Another potential candidate, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota has announced he'll make a decision one way or the other by the end of next month. Thune is very well-liked, but some conservatives wonder what the rationale for a Thune candidacy would be. One thing he unquestionably has going for him: He'd enter in an immediate virtual dead heat with Romney in the "looks like a president" category:
UPDATE: Mike Pence will make an announcement about his 2012 intentions later today:
The announcement will appear first in The Indianapolis Star, an aide said.
UPDATE II: Confirmed. Pence is out.