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Tilting at Windmills

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January 5, 2010

TOO MUCH HEAT IN THE SUNSHINE STATE.... Perhaps the most important political story of the day isn't out of D.C., but rather, about 900 miles south.

On a conference call with reporters just now, Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer officially announced his resignation, effective on February 20. He took the opportunity to tear into his right-wing critics for wanting a smaller party and accused them of pulling apart the GOP itself in order to take him out.

Greer is an ally of Gov. Charlie Crist, a relative GOP moderate who is being vigorously challenged in this year's Senate primary by the more conservative former state House Speaker Marco Rubio. Supporters of Rubio had been accusing Greer of mismanaging party funds and of being biased in Crist's favor, all of which Greer has strongly denied. In his resignation, Greer said he could no longer put the party through this divisive process -- but he clearly didn't mind taking some parting shots on the way out.

Given that Greer was being forced out of his job by right-wing contingents, he felt largely unrestrained when it came to assessing the Republican factions that want to drag the party even further to the right. Greer said his detractors were so intent on ousting him, they were prepared to "burn the house down and destroy the Republican Party of Florida."

He added that he came to realize that he "cannot be a participant in the shredding and tearing of the fabric of the Republican Party."

This is obviously a significant blow to Crist and his Senate campaign -- the right-wing contingents that organized against Greer did so, in large part, to undermine Crist's Senate campaign and help former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R). Chris Cillizza questioned today whether Greer's ouster is "a blow from which [Crist's already embattled Senate candidacy] cannot recover."

But this is a story that's relevant far beyond Florida. Today's news has national implications.

Evan McMorris-Santoro noted, "It's hard to overstate the importance of this resignation to the national GOP landscape."

The Senate race in the Sunshine State has become something of a proxy for the larger fight within the GOP, which pits conservative Republicans against extremely conservative Republicans. A wide variety of party players from outside Florida have been weighing in, making it the epicenter of the larger dispute over the future of the GOP.

Crist and his allies -- including Greer -- prefer a bigger party that can appeal to independents and center-right Democrats. Rubio's allies believe "moderates" need to be driven out of the party altogether, and they decided to start with taking out Greer.

Crist, the sitting governor, tried to stop them ... and failed miserably. The right -- in Florida and nationwide -- now feels emboldened after claiming a high-profile scalp.

Looking ahead, keep two angles in mind. First, this isn't a fight between Republican moderates and Republican conservatives, at least not in any meaningful sense. Olympia Snowe vs. Jim DeMint? That's the GOP center vs. the GOP right. Jim Greer, meanwhile, is perhaps best known for creating a national "controversy" in response to President Obama's plan to tell school children to do well in school. At the time, Greer threw a tantrum, accusing the president of trying to "indoctrinate America's children to his socialist agenda," adding that Obama "has turned to American's children to spread his liberal lies."

Greer, in other words, was never a moderate/centrist, but he was still not right-wing enough for the Teabagger crowd.

And second, one wonders if anyone outside the political world will notice any of this. Will the typical Florida voter realize that the state Republican Party is being hijacked by crazies? If so, there may be an electoral price to pay. If not, the problem will only get worse.

Steve Benen 3:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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This would be good news, if the Florida Democratic Party wasn't such a pathetic waste. As it is, it simply means the state will be handed over to Rubio and his band of wackos.

Posted by: Brautigan on January 5, 2010 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

How is Olympia Snowe the GOP center? Isn't she the furthest left of the Republican party? That still puts her to the right of center of the country as a whole.
Is there a Republican elected official in Washington to the left of Senator Snowe?

Posted by: Andrew on January 5, 2010 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Andrew -

Depends on the issue. Snowe is considered a "moderate", but when was the last time she voted against the party line on anything.

On other issues, there are certainly people to her left: Climate Change, Financial Regulations, Health Care Reform, etc.

Posted by: EddieInCA on January 5, 2010 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Be scared. Please take the time to reread later books in Alan Drury's "Advise and Consent" series from the early 1960s. In these books he shows how one party became increasingly radical and violent (in the books the liberals) and took over the government curtailing civil liberties etc. It's rather well done, if heavy on message. But then again those chanting mobs at Palin were heavy on message.

Posted by: Kurt on January 5, 2010 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Hard to tell at this point. The ultra-conservatives versus the conservatives might be how this plays out, but Crist himself is too controversial, and apparently gay. For me, it's too unique to call this situation prediction of how much sway the disorganized tea-baggers will have. This might just be personalities, homophobia, and typical Florida histrionics over little substance.

Posted by: Rathskeller on January 5, 2010 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

"burn the house down and destroy the Republican Party of Florida.... [I] cannot be a participant in the shredding and tearing of the fabric of the Republican Party."

Party party party

Not sure, should we be expecting him to have displayed some sort of concern for the actual State of Florida in there anywhere?

Posted by: mcc on January 5, 2010 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

It's not just about crazies in office, but an underlying greedy motive for gaining power.

By claiming the high road, being nearest to Jesus, etc., many on the right scramble up on top of a pile of humanity rather than lending a helping hand, let alone a handshake.

Add in the juice of corporate profits and you have a political beast that has sunk it's tentacles throughout our life.

Privatizing our government lessens privacy.

That's what Florida is about.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on January 5, 2010 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

I have my disagreements and disappointments in Pres. Obama but when I think of the possible alternatives, I shudder. I would rather vote for the man John Ashcroft lost to than Palin, Cheney, Pawlenty, McCain, Crist, Boenher or McConnell . Almost anyone (sane) is better than any Republican rep.

Posted by: Darsan 54 on January 5, 2010 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

I lived for 8 years under Jeb Bush , thinking ..these fuckers are crazy. The New and Improved Republicans seem to be raising the bar on crazy and are determined to drive themselves off the cliff. Christ turned out to be a joke and his tax policies have bankrupted most local governments doubling the homestead exemption and introducing portability which helped a lot of rich people but few others . I don't think I can take any more conservatism. Hopefully this will reduce the Republicans to a shadow of their former self

Posted by: john R on January 5, 2010 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

near total control of the reins of government by one party isn't a good thing. it breeds arrogance, and there's plenty of that in the republican party of florida (that's pretty much how the democrats imploded). the gop may be able to hold onto the senate and the house thanks to gerrymandering, but to win office statewide republicans need to attract independent and democratic voters. after all, there are more democrats in this state than there are republicans. if the democrats can get its act together and field decent candidates — and there are some out there — florida can turn blue, especially given demographic trends.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on January 5, 2010 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

To the average Teabagger, Lindsay Graham is insufficiently conservative. Methinks that, to many of them, Atilla the Hun would qualify as some kind of flaming liberal.


Posted by: Zorro on January 5, 2010 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Germany, 1930-32. The far right versus the ultra-far right.

We all know how well that turned out.

Posted by: Gummo on January 5, 2010 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

But, but, but, as Tweetie, and his band of conventional wisdom spouting hacks will tell us over and over again, the Republicans are positioned to win big in 2010 because the economy is bad and it's all Obama's fault.

Of course, this post should give any thinking pundit pause, but not the cable newsies who don't realize that this isn't the same old Republican tweedle dum to the Democrat tweedle dee.

Nobody in his right mind would want to elect any of the current Republican nutjobs working hard to purify their ever shrinking party.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 5, 2010 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

@Zorro - Of course Atilla the Hun was a flaming liberal: he traveled across many countries and many borders as an undocumented and illegal alien.

Posted by: kevmo on January 5, 2010 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

I would cheer for the devolution of the Republican Party, except for the possibility that they could still regain power nationwide. They are way too radical for most Americans, but I'm afraid that the low-information independents can too easily be convinced by a loud campaign that it is the liberals who are getting too radical.

Of course, 6 years or so of Republican rule convinces almost everyone that they need to go, but the effect of that unanimity is short-lived (the consensus that Bush was a disaster only lasted from election day till inaugural day).

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on January 5, 2010 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Hard to tell at this point. The ultra-conservatives versus the conservatives might be how this plays out, but Crist himself is too controversial, and apparently gay. For me, it's too unique to call this situation prediction of how much sway the disorganized tea-baggers will have. This might just be personalities, homophobia, and typical Florida histrionics over little substance.
Posted by: Rathskeller

the rumors about crist have been out there for years but no one has ever come up with anything concrete. if charlie gay, he's also is incredibly discrete. when he ran for governor, he had as his primary opponent a classic conservative in tom gallagher. crist ran as pro choice, gallagher anti-abortion, for example. the party knew that it was getting a moderate in crist but the party establishmment backed him strongly. he crushed gallagher and went on to win the general by a decent margin. crist pretty much governed as he campaigned and was hugely popular. my guess is that he'd beat any democrat the party might field against him. but the republican party has changed radically.

the odd thing is that marco rubio doesn't strike me as the teabagger type. certainly he's far more conservative than crist but he's never come across as an extreme ideologue.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on January 5, 2010 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Daryl @ 434pm

You give those low info voters too little credit.

there are still polls coming out asking who is responsible for the mess. The still blame bush,
and do not hold obama responsible... yet.

those low info voters voted in a black man. they might not be quite as dumb as you fear.

Posted by: catclub on January 5, 2010 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

This is exactly why the filibuster should not be changed in the Senate. The crazies might take over the asylum in the near future. I'd rather have good legislation watered down then seriously whacked legislation pass in the future.

Posted by: ScottW on January 5, 2010 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

And where will they (Crist and others) migrate to, the Democratic Party? As Blue-Dogs? That could be rather a mess.

Posted by: -syzygy- on January 5, 2010 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

Nonsense...you're fear mongering again...who wants the Bushies back? For every 200,000 radical teabagging crazies there are 2 million well informed voters who still think these Nazi sign bearers are nuts. Compare the Palin crowds with the Obama crowds and see the difference. Money and loud mouths and right wing media hypocrites couldn't stop voters from electing Obama.

Now they are crazier but without solutions only criticisms and so will lose elections overall. Screw them and the Jebus they rode in on. Necessity demands a liberal progressive agenda to bring the nation back from the brink of disaster these goobers brought on us and they haven't changed a bit...just deteriorated more in their self absorbtion. Watch as an environmental disaster changes the political landscape in Florida. Hope Crist is ready to kill a few of these mad rabid dogs...because that is how they will be perceived.

Posted by: bjobotts on January 5, 2010 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Dems pick up a Senate seat in Florida and lose one in ND?

Posted by: tomj on January 5, 2010 at 11:58 PM | PERMALINK

As so often, it depends on turn-out. In '06, Crist won with 52% of a voter turn-out of 4.8 million. An off-year electon. Using the gay-marriage Prop 2 of the '08 election as a proxy for Floridians willing to vote progressive (which lost but got 38%), 2.8 million liberal voters could be mobilized. I have been in FL about 10yrs--no expert--but I doubt that Rubio could win a large-turn-out contest, given his stand on off-shore oil wells and his attacks on the stimulous program (to name two). My 0.02 worth.

Posted by: JohnMcC on January 6, 2010 at 6:38 AM | PERMALINK



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