COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Sen. Jim DeMint has endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the 2008 presidential race, according to a letter the South Carolina senator is sending to state Republicans.
The endorsement letter, obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday, marks a split between the two Republican senators representing South Carolina, which holds the first southern presidential primary.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona is favored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina's senior senator.
DeMint's split is seen by some as a move to find a conservative alternative to McCain, but it's not that much of a surprise.
DeMint was elected in 2004.
McCain and Romney have both set up exploratory committees and started raising money for presidential bids but haven't formally declared they're running.
***FULL TEXT OF LETTER***
January 8, 2007
Dear Fellow Republican,
I'm writing to ask for your support of Governor Mitt Romney for President. Over the next 10 years, America will face unprecedented challenges. We must elect a President in 2008 who is up to the task, and I need you to encourage Mitt to run.
The threat of terrorism will continue to grow. America's energy needs will increase, and so will our dependence on foreign oil. The number of retirees will increase dramatically, and without major reforms, the future of Social Security and Medicare will be in peril. Without strong leadership, illegal immigration will continue to cost American taxpayers billions of dollars. America's education system and global competitiveness will continue to decline without major changes. I believe Governor Romney will provide the leadership America needs to meet this new generation of challenges.
America's success and strength emanate from the private sector: traditional faith-based values, families, churches, volunteerism and free enterprise. We must elect a President who understands the strength of America. Governor Romney has spent most of his life outside of government. He has been a successful businessman and national leader. As governor, he has taken Massachusetts from large debts to surpluses while holding the line on taxes. He has been married to his wife Ann for 37 years; they have 5 boys and 10 grandchildren. Their lives reflect the best of America's traditions and values.
Governor Romney has helped to start and manage national and international companies. He understands the global economy, capital formation and the need to make America more competitive. When the nation needed him to save the failing and bankrupt 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, Mitt Romney volunteered to take over the leadership of an event which was headed towards a national embarrassment. He served for over two years with no salary and even contributed Senator Jim DeMint $1 million of his own money to make sure the Olympics went forward. His leadership resulted in one of the most successful Olympics in history. Mitt Romney made America proud.
As Governor he faced down a $3 billion deficit and balanced the budget. He passed innovative health care reforms and education scholarships based on achievement. He fought an activist state court that imposed same-sex marriage on the people of his state and he championed the Federal Marriage Amendment. Once again, he did not take a salary for his public service as Governor.
We need a President who will welcome new ideas and yet knows when to "take charge" someone who will call on America's strengths and provide leadership for the new generation of challenges we face. I believe Governor Romney will be the kind of President who will inspire Americans to reach higher because he shares our goals:
Governor Romney has innovative ideas about how to adapt our military, Special Forces, intelligence services, and defense technologies to protect America from future terrorist attacks. He believes in peace through strength. He also supports the right of law-abiding individuals to protect themselves in their homes; he will be a strong defender of the second amendment and will protect our right to "bear arms."
I support Governor Romney because he believes we need to achieve operational control of America's borders, issue fraud-proof worker identification cards, and implement an enforceable legal immigration system. He does not believe that people who come to the U.S. illegally are entitled to a special right to citizenship.
We must guarantee that America is the best place in the world to invest capital and operate a business. I support Governor Romney because he will make America's education and workforce development system the best in the world. He understands that by streamlining our tax code and legal and regulatory systems, America will become the best place in the world to do business.
America should not be dependent on unreliable countries for our energy needs. I support Governor Romney because he believes we need to make America independent of foreign sources of oil. We must protect our freedom by taking our resources out of the hands of hostile regimes and using them instead to build our economy at home. Through conservation and the development of alternative fuels, America can be independent of oil from the Middle East, Venezuela, and other unreliable suppliers.
Governor Romney has exemplified the moral leadership that must be the hallmark of an American President. He knows that traditional values begin with doing the right thing; saying what you mean and meaning what you say; and keeping your promises. He strongly believes that America must keep its promises to seniors before we make new promises that we can't afford. Governor Romney has the vision and the courage to reform Social Security and Medicare for the next generation while guaranteeing promised benefits to today's seniors. He knows that doing the right thing means that every American must have access to quality healthcare. He passed such a plan as Governor and would support other innovative state and federal solutions, rejecting an unworkable "one-size-fits-all" approach. I support Governor Romney because he believes all Americans should have a health plan that they can afford, own and keep.
Governor Romney is strongly pro-life. He will be a great asset to the cause of life because he has done something that we must convince many other Americans to do; he has changed his mind. After reviewing new scientific data, he is absolutely convinced that human life begins at conception. He will work to protect the lives of mothers and babies. He will also support promising adult stem cell research while maintaining the ban on federal funding of research that involves the killing of human embryos.
Governor Romney is opposed to same-sex marriages and civil unions. He supports a Federal Marriage Amendment that protects traditional marriage. He believes in the equal rights of every American, but does not believe activist judges should be making the law in these areas. He also rejects government promotion of the homosexual lifestyle.
Governor Romney believes that American values should include the end of wasteful government spending and the elimination of the huge debts that our children should not be forced to pay. He also believes that preserving our environment is an important American value and a tangible legacy for future generations.
I believe that Governor Romney can restore America's leadership at home and around the world. Too often, career politicians who have spent their lives in government, turn first to government solutions. And too often, well-intentioned government solutions have only made our problems worse. As a leader who has spent most of his life in the private sector, Governor Romney will call on America's strength and character to solve problems and secure our future.
I Need Your Help! Governor Romney has organized an exploratory committee to promote his vision and goals for America and to gauge support for his potential candidacy. I believe that he is exactly the leader America needs to secure our future. Americans are tired of the same old ideas that keep coming out of Washington. They are hungry for a leader who will draw on America's strength. I would like Governor Romney to know that key Republicans like you want him to run for President. If you agree with me, please use the enclosed replycard to let me know. I will personally hand deliver all of these cards to Governor Romney.
Sincerely, Jim DeMint