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David Vitter rides the tea party wave

NEW ORLEANS -- In a brief speech introducing former senator and current presidential dark horse Rick Santorum, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) delivered the kind of atta-boys for the conservative movement that have shored up his reelection chances. Vitter's three-year-old prostitution scandal is a dead letter here -- he sold himself as a living, breathing representation of the tea party movement, and the audience happily bought it. (Polls show him cruising over the Democrats' recruit, Rep. Charlie Melancon.)

"The Republican Party will be the vehicle for positive, conservative change this November," said Vitter. "The tea party movement will be the fuel that charges, even supercharges that vehicle."

Vitter pointed the crowd to, and warned activists to watch out for liberal efforts to drive tea party energy into a third party.

"You're going to see a determined effort to use the movement to split that vote," said Vitter.

The senator also dove in front (rhetorically speaking) of Sarah Palin, taking her side in an attack on President Obama's nuclear arms reduction policy that has largely been forced from the headlines by the bigger news of this weekend.

"I'll take a TV personality over a community organizer every day," said Vitter. That drew the biggest applause of the day so far.

By David Weigel  |  April 10, 2010; 1:57 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Election , SRLC  
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