In only one term, Jim DeMint has become a prominent champion of spending restraint in the U.S. Senate. An ardent foe of the congressional "earmark" spending process that's short on transparency and long on waste, the conservative Republican has earned a second term from South Carolina voters.

Sen. DeMint has riled Democrats by consistently seeking -- and occasionally finding -- ways to thwart Washington's free-spending business as usual. A tea party favorite, he has riled some GOP colleagues by backing primary challenges from the fiscal right to incumbents and other candidates supported by the party establishment.

And, yes, he has even drawn criticism from us for taking his anti-earmark mission too far in one instance of significant consequence to our community and state. That's because he has refused to join other members of our congressional delegation -- including GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham and 1st District GOP Rep. Henry Brown -- in requesting $400,000 for an Army Corps of Engineers study to advance the deepening of Charleston Harbor.

We think Sen. DeMint is mistaken in his opinion that he can't be both for earmark reform and for obtaining that vital appropriation for his state. The port-study project has a crucial federal component.

But we also think he performs a valuable general service by pressing the fights against soaring federal spending and for a fundamental overhaul of the earmark process.

Certainly America needs more fiscal hawks in the halls of national power at this ominous point: With the combined federal deficits for the last two years exceeding $2.7 trillion and the national debt at a record $13.68 trillion and climbing as of Thursday, our economy is bound for disaster if the red-ink flood continues.

Mr. DeMint also has a solid conservative voting record on foreign policy and national security during his first term in the Senate, just as he did during his three terms in the U.S. House.

No, we don't share his narrow view against an earmark for that port study. We do, however, applaud his overarching resolve to make federal spending more accountable and our national government more affordable.

Unfortunately, Sen. DeMint doesn't have a credible Democratic opponent Tuesday. But even if he did, his strong stand for fiscal responsibility rates him a second term.