Sen. Jim DeMint, a conservative kingmaker who spent millions helping tea party favorites get elected to Congress, faced contempt from other Republican senators as he tried to curb appropriators' powers and limit senior members' clout.
In his new book, "The Great American Awakening," DeMint describes himself as an upstart freshman lawmaker on a lonely mission among "sorry rascals" infuriated by his bucking of venerable Senate practices in his bid to cut federal spending and limit colleagues' ability to fund local projects.
In one of many confrontations with GOP peers, Sen. Arlen Specter reacted angrily in May 2009 when DeMint told him in a private chamber off the Senate floor that he would be backing former Rep. Pat Toomey's challenge of Specter in Pennsylvania's Republican primary.
In the closed-rank circles of Washington politics, it's unheard of for a senator -- much less a first-term one like DeMint was then -- to back a challenger against an incumbent from the same party. But DeMint deemed Toomey a more reliable conservative than Specter.
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"He barely made eye contact, but I continued," DeMint wrote in the book. "'I value your friendship.' He cut me off and said, 'I've heard enough,' then stood up and walked away. I sat there for a few minutes staring at the floor, feeling sick and guilty."
Specter bolted the Republican Party, ran as a Democrat and lost to Toomey -- who now belongs to "a team of conservatives," five new senators indebted to DeMint and helping him rattle cages louder with their hard-line views and tactics.
The encounter with Specter is among many vivid behind-the-scenes GOP clashes DeMint details after President Barack Obama's 2008 election.
The conflicts reveal a widening split within the Republican Party between pragmatic dealmakers trying to help their states and ideological conservatives intent on slashing the federal government even at the expense of needs back home.
A mission from God
DeMint repeatedly casts himself as fulfilling a mission assigned to him by God to "save freedom," prevent bankrupting the future and pull the nation back from a moral abyss.
Describing his book as a story of "the battle for America's soul," DeMint said he was tired of Washington after his first term and almost didn't seek re-election last year, but God persuaded him to stay in the race.
"I became a (conservative) movement ally inside the U.S. Senate and one of the few elected officials willing to break ranks to support tea party candidates," DeMint wrote. "That was my role, and I wanted to be a faithful steward of this position and platform God had given me."
In one of many breaks from political convention, DeMint's book contains just a single instance of him pursuing South Carolina-specific needs -- when he opposed Obama's plan to move suspected terrorists to the Charleston naval brig after closing the detainee prison at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which Obama has postponed.
Barbs for Republicans
In another unusual tack, DeMint mentions the state's senior senator, fellow Republican Lindsey Graham, only three times, and not once in a positive way.
DeMint cites Graham's criticism of him for having backed political novice Christine O'Donnell's losing Senate race in Delaware and notes Graham's claim, disputed by DeMint, that the tea party movement will prove short-lived.
But DeMint appears to shield Graham from the barbs he aims at other GOP senators for casting votes and taking stances similar to those of Graham that DeMint believes betray the conservative cause.
DeMint castigates former Sens. Specter, Bob Bennett of Utah and George Voinovich of Ohio; and current Sens. Kit Bond of Missouri, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, and Scott Brown of Massachusetts for committing at least one of various offenses such as opposing an earmark ban, backing bailouts of banks and automakers, supporting climate change legislation and voting for immigration "amnesty."
'Senator Tea Party'
DeMint's ultimately successful effort to ban spending earmarks made him a hero to conservative activists nationwide and led to his title of Senator Tea Party.
But the four-year battle encompassed a number of defeats within the Senate Republican caucus that "humiliated" the South Carolinian, often left him dispirited and alienated him from colleagues in a chamber known for its clubby conviviality.
"How did a guy like me, who loved people and was known my whole life for being friendly, get myself in a position where I was making so many enemies?" DeMint asked plaintively.
The answer isn't hard to find.
In the Senate, a tradition-bound institution with a premium on loyalty and discretion, DeMint employed a scorched-earth approach in which he took no prisoners. DeMint describes several closed-door scenes of him as "the skunk at the party," in which he scolded other GOP senators for failing to grasp the "throw the (Republican) bums out" message of the 2008 elections and for ignoring tens of thousands of tea party protesters who'd rallied outside the Capitol.
"Republicans who think the tea party hurt Republicans in 2010 are completely out of touch," he wrote.