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Jim DeMint is pictured. | AP Photo

DeMint shows how a marquee name can raise the profile of the already  venerable foundation. | AP Phot

Four decades after its launch, the most powerful conservative think tank in  Washington is getting new blood.

Jim DeMint’s surprise  departure from the Senate reinvigorates the 39-year-old Heritage Foundation at a  time when much of the ideas and policy output flowing from conservative think  tanks has become predictable, uninspiring and often lacking in influence.

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The ultimate impact of DeMint’s move remains to be seen, but in round-robin  interviews with The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, he is  already showing how a marquee name can raise the profile of the already  venerable foundation.

But DeMint’s appointment is raising concerns among conservatives that, given  his past experience on the political battlefield, the former senator will be  tempted to turn Heritage into a weapon against Democrats, rather than as a fount  of bold new ideas to inspire the right.

(Also  on POLITICO: Think tank jobs a lucrative landing spot)

“Heritage under Jim DeMint could well be a powerful political force,” Bill  Kristol, founding editor of the Weekly Standard, told POLITICO. “But will it be  a powerful think tank, a source of new policy ideas and fresh thinking? I hope  so.”

Because DeMint is founder of the Senate Tea Party Caucus, his appointment  also bodes well for more conservative members of the Republican Party who  champion Heritage’s recent moves further to the right, including the creation in  2010 of Heritage Action for America, which made an aggressive push for the  repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care law.

(Also  on POLITICO: All eyes on Nikki Haley to pick Jim DeMint successor)

“Republican congressmen have been deeply upset by the aggressiveness of  Heritage Action for America, which sprung from The Heritage Foundation. There  had been hope that HAFA would not be as forceful in the new year,” Erick  Erickson, founder of conservative blog Red State, told POLITICO.

“DeMint not only ensures HAFA will continue to be forceful but also ensures  The Heritage Foundation will continue being the conservative standard-bearer  instead of trying to find ways to fit general Republican policies under a  conservative banner,” Erickson added.

Meanwhile, DeMint will have greater influence on conservative policy than he  ever could as a senator, those on the right said.

As president of Heritage, and freed from the constraints of lawmaking, DeMint  will now have more than $80 million at his disposal to shape and push a  conservative agenda and lead an aggressive opposition to Democrats.