But one person could change the course of the campaign in South Carolina dramatically and prevent Perry from a decisive victory. Jim DeMint, the state’s junior senator and a Tea Party icon, could back somebody else. In fact, he could support Mitt Romney, just as he did four years ago.

And, as Smith put it, “I don’t think I can overstate the importance of Jim DeMint’s influence on the Republican primary.” If he were to back the more moderate Romney, Smith said, it may mean “DeMint’s litmus test could possibly have changed.”…

DeMint has maintained a personal relationship with Romney — the depth of which isn’t matched by his relationships with the other candidates. He backed Romney early in the 2008 cycle and campaigned with him, including at some events in Iowa in the days prior to the Hawkeye State’s caucuses…

Palmetto State Republicans close to DeMint explained that he likes Romney personally and respects him as a businessman, a background DeMint shares.