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Tea Party Wins Big With Charlie Crist's Defection

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Anyone who doubts the power of the Tea Party movement and its corporate-funded manipulators need look no further than the defection of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist from the Republican Party to remove those doubts.

Yesterday, Crist announced his withdrawal from the Republican primary for Florida's open U.S. Senate seat, a nomination once regarded as a sure thing for Crist. It was such a sure thing, in fact, that he won the endorsement of the party establishment -- most notably, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- before the primary campaign even began.

But members of the Tea Party movement and its allies were having none of it, for not only had Crist declared his endorsement of President Obama's stimulus package, he HUGGED BARACK OBAMA IN PUBLIC! Ewww! Yes, he did: Charlie Crist hugged the magic Negro socialist.

That was enough to stir the Tea Party grass roots into a frenzy against Crist, which opened the door wide for the astroturfers and the conservative establishment to step in.

FreedomWorks, that grand exploiter of the movement, stepped through to endorse Marco Rubio, the anti-Crist. Perfect story: right wing, loves waterboarding the 'bad guys', an anti-immigrant son of immigrants. Tea Party favorite Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., stepped forward to endorse Rubio, and with DeMint's endorsement came $10,000 from DeMint's own political action committee, the Senate Conservatives Fund.

At the Web site of DeMint's PAC, there's a fascinating timeline of Charlie Crist's fall from GOP grace; it shows his fortunes falling steadily with each endorsement gained from a major conservative player, including FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey, DeMint himself, and the Club for Growth.

Left out of that timeline is the impact of the movie "Outrage," which makes the case that Crist, an opponent of same-sex marriage, is a closeted gay man. (Gay people are not terribly popular among the Tea Party crowd.) A graph on BlogActive, the Web site run by Mike Rogers, the protagonist in " Outrage," shows the beginning of the decline in Crist's polling numbers versus Rubio's beginning with the premiere of the movie. I don't mean to suggest that the "Outrage" premiere is the cause of Charlie Crist's misfortune, but it is one of those delicious coincidences that speaks to a subtext in the race.

Now that Crist has jumped into the general election as an independent, it's a three-way race between the governor, Rubio and the likely Democratic nominee, Kendrick Meek, an African-American. And it's anybody's guess how it will turn out.

Though the Tea Party's foot soldiers will likely wear out their combat boots toiling for Rubio, the movement's maniupulators -- DeMint and Armey, et al -- won't consider it an overall loss if either Meek or Crist win Florida's Senate seat. As they did in New York's 23rd congressional district last year, they'll have made their point to the GOP: check with us first before you endorse, ensuring an even further shift to the right (you thought that was impossible?) by the Republican Party.