LIMBAUGH VS STEELE, ROUND II…. Yesterday Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele told a national television audience that Rush Limbaugh’s schtick is both “incendiary” and “ugly.” Today, Limbaugh responded. Greg Sargent reports:

“I’m not in charge of the Republican Party, and I don’t want to be,” Rush said. “I would be embarrassed to say that I’m in charge of the Republican Party in a sad-sack state that it’s in. If I were chairman of the Republican Party, given the state that it’s in, I would quit.” […]

“So send those fundraising requests out,” Rush said in a sneering tone, in an apparent reference to Steele, adding: “Make sure you say, ‘We want Obama to succeed.’ So people understand your compassion.”

“Republicans and conservatives are sick and tired of being talked down to, they’re sick and tired of being lectured to,” Rush continued. “And until you show some understanding and respect for who they are, you’re gonna have a tough time rebuilding your party.”

In case there were any doubts about the target of his ire, Limbaugh used his platform to start chiding Steele directly: “Why are you running the Republican Party? Why do you claim you lead the Republican Party when you seem obsessed with seeing to it that President Obama succeeds? I frankly am stunned that the chairman of the Republican National Committee endorses such an agenda…. If we don’t want Obama and Reid and Pelosi to fail, then why does the RNC exist, Mr. Steele? Why are you even raising money?”

Democrats would, under normal circumstances, work very hard to drive a wedge between the Republican Party’s leadership and its activist base. Over the last couple of weeks, that’s happening anyway, without Dems having to lift a finger.

The one person rank-and-file Republicans follow with the most enthusiasm is using his show to bash the Republican Party, insult the RNC chairman, and undermine the party’s fundraising efforts. What’s more, with his comments yesterday, Steele effectively baited Limbaugh into launching today’s tirade, which only keeps the right-wing blowhard front and center for another day.

If the DNC were writing the script, it would look quite a bit like this.

The next step will be the RNC’s efforts to mend fences and make Limbaugh (and his audience) happy again. We’ll see how that goes.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.