The Hotline's Reid Wilson reports:
South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, a Tea Party favorite, is heading to Iowa to deliver a speech in March -- a move that is fueling speculation that DeMint is considering a White House run, even as he publicly denies interest.
DeMint will speak at a forum hosted by Iowa Rep. Steve King in Des Moines on March 26, according to sources close to DeMint. News of the appearance was first reported by The Iowa Republican.
DeMint's travels to Iowa are a notable contrast to his public positioning. Asked Wednesday if he is going to run for the presidential nomination, DeMint told CNN flatly "no, I'm not" yesterday in an interview with Wolf Blitzer. That's hardly a Shermanesque denial, though, and leaves him open to change his mind at a later date.
A DeMint spokesman tells the Hotline that DeMint "has absolutely no plans to run for president," but an anonymous adviser tells CNN that DeMint is still open to a run, and that the one candidate DeMint could envision backing right now is Mike Pence.
"I think that you can read into it that he sees he has a role in the process and he hasn't completely shut the door," said one DeMint adviser asked about the Iowa foray.
DeMint currently sees his role in the 2012 process, the adviser said, as "setting the bar high" for the presidential contenders when it comes to advocating for a small government agenda.
"He hasn't completely shut the door on running, and if there is a massive void in the group of candidates, who knows what could happen?," said the adviser, who was quick to caution that there is only a five percent chance the senator will run.
Aside from Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, who is currently deciding between a presidential run and a gubernatorial bid in his home state, DeMint's advisers are having a difficult time envisioning a candidate that he could get behind.