Sen. Jim DeMint on Thursday dismissed worries by some of his fellow Republicans that tea party-backed politicians like Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell are too conservative to win in November.
"The tea party represents a broad cross-section of the American people," DeMint, R-S.C., told NBC's "Today." He said Republicans need to embrace tea party goals like limited government and balanced federal budgets.
DeMint, whose endorsement boosted O'Donnell late in her primary race, cited other tea party favorites who are doing well in polls, including Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio and Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul. Both defeated better-established Republicans in primaries.
"You can't change Washington unless you change people who are here," he said. "People are ready to throw out the bums."
After O'Donnell's victory Tuesday, former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove, who is trying to fashion GOP majorities in Congress, said of her general election prospects, "This is not a race we're going to be able to win." And her primary opponent, Rep. Mike Castle, said through a spokeswoman he does not intend to support O'Donnell.
But other Republicans, including Sarah Palin and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, rushed to O'Donnell's defense, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney sent $5,000 from his political action committee for her campaign.
DeMint, who became a force in Republican primaries this spring and summer, denied having conflicts with the GOP establishment in Washington. "I like our current leadership," he said. "I want to support this leadership team. What we're trying to do now is get a group of Republicans that provide a clear contrast with the Pelosi-Obama agenda."