Sen. Jim DeMint has put it out there: if the Republican Party doesn't live up to its conservative principles, then "the Republican Party's dead."
DeMint made the comment on CNN's "State of the Union," his sentiment having been borne out by two recent Senate elections in Delaware and Alaska, where Republicans lost surprisingly in primaries to candidates who espoused those principles DeMint referenced.
The South Carolina senator has become the voice of the Tea Party in the upper chamber, and he has not endeared himself to all of his fellow Republican members in the process. His Senate Conservatives Fund is one of the more prominent national groups backing of Tea-Party-style candidates, and it is currently raising earmarked donations to be spent on the campaigns of Joe Miller in Alaska, Ken Buck in Colorado, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Dino Rossi in Washington, Mike Lee in Utah, Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, Rand Paul in Kentucky, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, and Marco Rubio in Florida.
Polls show seven of those 10 candidates leading their Democratic opponents. If most of them win, DeMint may become the most important power broker in the Senate.