COLUMBIA — Tea party favorite and U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint says he won’t endorse a candidate in the 2012 presidential race, taking what would be a huge bump off the table in early-voting South Carolina.

DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton on Monday confirmed a report that DeMint is staying on the sideline.

The Washington Post on Sunday was first to report that DeMint was staying on the sidelines.

Denton said DeMint would concentrate on raising money and promoting U.S. Senate candidates.

A January 2007 early endorsement from DeMint helped put former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on the map in South Carolina, easing fears of some Christian conservatives. At the time, Romney was trying to gain attention in a big field that included former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain.