Rubio to tea partiers: The GOP should be your home

Another important nudge at independents from a tea party all-star, a la Palin’s statement in Arkansas, that the road to ruin runs through third parties. Yes, as a young Republican with a future, it’s in his interest to say this, but given the astounding distrust of both parties among the electorate, there’s still a bit of risk involved. What he says here is slightly more elaborate than what Palin said, although they amount to the same thing: In return for tea partiers gritting their teeth to vote Republican, Republicans will have to do more to make tea partiers happy. Jim DeMint, who introduced Rubio at CPAC today, made a similar point in his Q&A afterwards, although he’s a bit more emphatic about the second part of the equation than Palin and Rubio are.

When asked whether he would support “tea party” candidates in states such as Nevada, where Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is facing an uphill battle for a fifth term, or elsewhere, DeMint said he would if GOP candidates are not conservative enough. “That’s the last resort,” DeMint said, adding that “if Republicans only have one choice … then they’re going to look towards a third-party candidate.”

DeMint made his comments following a speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, where he repeatedly chided Republicans for not backing strict conservatives.

“Despite the clarion call for freedom from the American people, there is still a struggle within the Republican Party about who we are and what we stand for. It’s a fight between those who take their constitutional oath seriously and those who don’t,” DeMint told the crowd at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park hotel.

DeMint also endorsed Scott Brown, so his definition of “conservative enough” is, wisely, keyed to local electoral reality.

Two clips for you here. One is Rubio, the other is Florida tea party leader Karin Thompson refusing to take the third-party bait on grounds that, until the movement is broad enough to draw off of both major parties, doing so would be “disruptive” — i.e. a recipe for perpetual Democratic victory.