‘WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN?’…. In general, CNN’s Rick Sanchez is not my cup of tea, but I have to admit, he has his moments.

This afternoon, Sanchez was interviewing Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), arguably the chamber’s most conservative member, about the shrinking Republican Party, and whether the GOP’s hard-right agenda is driving away mainstream voters. “Quite the opposite,” DeMint said. “We’re seeing across the country right now that the biggest tent of all is the tent of freedom.”

“What the hell does that mean?” Sanchez asked. “The ‘biggest tent’ is ‘freedom’? Freedom? You’ve got to do better than that!”

In response, DeMint argued that Americans are actually embracing the Republican message: “Americans who are normally not even political are coming out to ‘Tea Parties’ and protesting.” This, DeMint suggested, is proof of the Republican message connecting with the electorate.

He wasn’t kidding. The future of the GOP is Tea Baggers and the tent of freedom. It sounds like the message you might read in a greeting card written by Joe the Plumber.

Unfortunately for the GOP, DeMint’s hollow platitudes — “free people,” “free markets,” “tent of freedom” — only help reinforce the bankruptcy of the party’s message and policy agenda. Sanchez didn’t know what DeMint was talking about, and it seemed as if DeMint didn’t know, either.

For that matter, DeMint may want to consider whether he really has his finger on the pulse of the political world. Just a few days ago, DeMint boasted that “many” of the voters who backed Obama in November are now experiencing “buyers’ remorse.” A few days later, a Washington Post poll put the president’s approval rating at 69%. The New York Times added today that Obama’s support “is higher than that of any recent president at the 100-day mark.”

It certainly doesn’t look like Obama voters are experiencing “buyers’ remorse.” Maybe reality is skewed inside “the tent of freedom.”

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.