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Tea Partiers Bag Another One

There they go again.

From the Sunshine State came news today of the resignation, in the face of a concerted attack by Republican Party purists, of state GOP chairman and Charlie Crist ally Jim Greer. The departing chairman did not, however, exit before lashing out at those who he says took him down and, in his opinion, are destroying the Florida GOP.

“Since 2007, I have made a point to put the best interest of the Party before my own, even when criticisms were misdirected and invalid, and I will do so again now,” wrote Greer in his resignation letter. “While some are more interested in tearing and shredding the fabric of the Republican Party to pieces, I will not be a participant in this destructive behavior. Therefore, I am putting the future of our Party first and shall step down as Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida effective February, 20, 2010.” (Greer will be replaced by state senator John Thrasher of Jacksonville.)

The party-line response of Democrats to the news of Greer’s resignation was issued by Democratic National Committee chair Tim Kaine: “Today’s right-wing led coup of Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer is a telling and unsettling sign about the extreme direction of the Republican Party–a direction that is narrowing the Party ideologically, demographically and, ultimately, electorally. We’re not even a full week into 2010 and the extreme right wing of the Republican Party has claimed another trophy for its wall–adding Greer to Senator Specter and Dede Scozzafava in its quest to purify the Republican Party, eliminate moderate voices and enact an extreme right-wing agenda.”

A few tidbits and reactions:

*As noted in various reports, this was in many respects a proxy fight in the larger battle between Crist and conservative poster-boy Marco Rubio for the GOP senate nomination. That tea partiers backing the insurgent Rubio’s nomination bid were able to claim such a scalp is pretty impressive, whatever one thinks of them. They are causing mainstream Republicans to take extreme caution so as not to incite them. Michael Steele, the Republican National Committee chair who was already having a rough day after he angered House Republicans by stating that they would not be able to take back the House this November, said Greer “understood that his presence was creating more division than necessary.” Steele has to dance more gingerly right now than any Republican not running for president.

*Top party leaders were expressing their frustration about a pending Greer takedown just a few weeks ago, and with impassioned language of their own. Read this open letter from state GOP rules chairman Jim Stelling, who late last month called out a whole list of people by name who he said will not stop until the party “is in ruins.” This fight could get very, very ugly.

*Democrats seem genuinely delighted. Hoping to limit their losses in 2010, one mitigating circumstance is the degree to which the GOP is distracted with intra-party fights at the expense of directing their fire at Democrats. However, Democrats may not want to start rooting for Rubio by virtue of his backers: If he wins the nomination, Rubi could be formidable in the general election and having a young Latino governor of this still-pivotal state could pose longer-term problems. Democrats should be rooting for continued infighting and yet for Crist to hang on–which should, in turn, lead to yet more infighting.

*Thrasher, who is close to former governor Jeb Bush, is not considered a Crist ally; he backed a Crist opponent during the 2006 GOP gubernatorial primary. Greer clearly was: Crist appointed him chair.