(CNN) – Sen. Jim DeMint, the South Carolina Republican who has repeatedly bucked his party’s choice of Senate candidates this cycle, maintains he has helped the GOP's chances of regaining control of the upper chamber.
“I'll tell you this, the only - the only reason we have a chance at a majority now is in large part for the candidates I've been supporting,” said DeMint in an interview that aired Sunday on CNN’s "State of The Union."
“If the Republican Party in the Senate was now symbolized by [Sen.] Arlen Specter and [Florida Gov.] Charlie Crist, we would not have the energy behind our candidates anywhere in the country,” he continued.
DeMint has come under heavy criticism from some members of his party who say he has instead put GOP control of the Senate out of reach with his support of candidates who are not likely to win a general election in November.
The anger boiled over after Republican Christine O’Donnell’s surprise upset over establishment pick Mike Castle in Delaware last week, when one unnamed senior GOP aide told CNN's Dana Bash: "I wonder who Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer are calling first tonight – Chris Coons for becoming the next Senator from Delaware or Jim DeMint for helping to make it happen."
Another GOP leadership aide griped to Hotline On Call that "DeMint is not interested in a majority - he'd rather establish himself as the leader on the fringe."
DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund directed money to O'Donnell's campaign and numerous other conservative Senate hopefuls who knocked off establishment-backed candidates in GOP primaries this cycle.
In his interview on CNN, DeMint also looked to the 2012 presidential race, saying he’d support a candidate like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
“I'm looking for someone that's almost like a Governor Christie in New Jersey who's willing to tell people the hard truth that the federal government can't do anymore, we've got to do less if you want to save our country, and fight the fights against the union bosses,” he said.
“And so, I'm looking for a combination of Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill, and I know he or she is out there somewhere,” he added.