Nightly News   |  December 06, 2012

DeMint’s resignation stuns colleagues

South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint announced he is leaving Congress to become a full-time political activist as president of conservative research group the Heritage Foundation. NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ moderator David Gregory reports.

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>>> and now to d.c., on the fiscal cliff, 26 days to go before the deadline. president obama was back at it campaign-style. went to the home of one middle class family in virginia, saying if the middle class tax cuts expire when the deadline hits it will cost the family an equivalent of a month's rent. meanwhile, john boehner started the talks after a standoff that lasted almost a week. then there was the surprise that rocked the capital today. south carolina conservative, jim demint , a hero to many, is retiring next month. to go run the influential heritage foundation nbc's david gregory , the moderator of "meet the press," has more on the surprise announcement.

>> reporter: about four years early, a lot of people thought it would happen by 2017 , but not at this point. in his term, demint was somebody who turbo-charged the tea party movement. he told me he would like to see the party really adopt more of these tea party ideas. that really didn't happen. there were more internal fights. he did have success in fielding candidates and also failed. he said they didn't do enough to establish what the party was for. he is going to try to be a force behind the party. now he feels like he can leave the senate, and champion the party

>> and one more, senator coburn, from texas, somebody the president has a good relationship with opened the door toward raising taxes on the wealthy. any significance there?

>> reporter: yes, i think a lot of things are misplaced. i talked to a lot of people. more and more conservatives like coburn said fold on the tax rates , let them go up so that we conservatives can get a better deal and force the white house to do more entitlement cuts, specifically, medicare. a bigger deal that could satisfy conservatives, that would be good for the country and the debt, that is where you see a lot of momentum

>> as we keep saying, if we're not careful, compromise may break out in washington, david gregory , "meet the press," as