Jim DeMint, Congressional Republicans’ Shadow Speaker

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from Bloomberg BusinessWeek,

When Congress adjourned for its August recess this year, most members avoided the town hall meetings that were once the standard venue for hearing from constituents. They were too afraid. Ever since activists opposed to President Obama’s health-care bill ambushed lawmakers in August 2009, few members are willing to risk a confrontation being immortalized on YouTube —or, worse, Fox News. Trips home are now carefully choreographed affairs that limit spontaneous voter contact.

But neither the anger nor the town hall format has gone away; they’re just under new management. In mid-August, Jim DeMint, the South Carolina Republican who quit the Senate in January to become president of the Heritage Foundation, the conservative Washington think tank, set off on a nine-city Defund Obamacare Town Hall Tour. DeMint, 62, is a courtly, polished Southerner who used to own a marketing business. These days he’s selling the idea that it’s not too late to kill the health-care law.

DeMint’s idea was initially dismissed as quixotic. Even so, the defund push has caught fire in Washington because activists have made it into a crusade.

Many Republicans looked on in horror as the defund movement gained steam.

“If I were speaker, I’d tell the president, ‘Mr. President, we funded the government, but we’re not going to fund your bill,’ ” says DeMint, who likes to make his point by acting out imagined confrontations. “ ‘We are not going to give in—one month, two months, three months. We are never going to give in. It’s just that important.’ And if the president wants to put the country through that to save a law that isn’t ready to go, well, then that’s a battle we have to have.”

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