This is a political earthquake (h/t @ErickErickson):

South Carolina U.S. Senator Jim DeMint will replace Ed Feulner as president of the Heritage Foundation. Mr. DeMint will leave his post as South Carolina’s junior senator in early January to take control of the Washington think tank, which has an annual budget of about $80 million.

Sen. DeMint’s departure means that South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a Republican, will name a successor, who will have to run in a special election in 2014. In that year, both Mr. DeMint’s replacement and Sen. Lindsey Graham will be running for reelection in South Carolina.

Mr. DeMint was reelected to a second term in 2010. The 61-year-old senator had announced earlier that he would not seek a third term.

Who replaces DeMint as the face of conservatism in the Senate?

I predict the newly-elected Ted Cruz.

Update Who will Haley name?

(The move appears to be a break for Graham, who may see potential Republican and Democratic challengers flock to the open seat instead of challenging him.)

The nature of the appointment process means it’s anybody’s guess as to who Haley will pick, but Republicans did catch a break by not having to defend the seat in a special election in mid-2013, as is the law in many other states.

Some names that are likely to be bandied about include Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who would become the only black senator and the first black Republican senator since the 1970s, and other Republicans in the state’s House delegation, which includes Reps. Joe Wilson, Jeff Duncan, and Mick Mulvaney.

Haley could also pick a placeholder — i.e. someone who doesn’t intend to run for the seat in 2014 — to avoid giving anyone a leg up for the open seat….