Of all the intramural competitions on display in this great land of ours, none is quite so riveting as the burst of bile between Karl Rove and the self-appointed leaders of the Tea Party movement. The lay reader of political news is apt to see this row as one that began with the announcement of the creation of a new super PAC, designed to destroy Tea Party candidates running in Senate primaries, by Rove and his colleagues at American Crossroads — the ballyhooed super PAC that failed to win investors much return on their investment in the 2012 elections.

But the Rove v. Tea Party feud dates back long before Bush’s so-called brain deigned to take on the Tea Party with a PAC with a name that sounds remarkably like a Tea Party-affiliated operation: the Conservative Victory Project. (Note that former U.S. senator Jim DeMint’s PAC, known for launching primary candidates against so-called “establishment Republicans,” is called the Senate Conservatives Fund.)

Here’s a quote Richard Viguerie, a founder of the religious right, direct-mail fundraising guru, and self-styled Tea Party arbiter, from a press conference he convened the day after President Barack Obama won re-election:

In any logical universe, Republican…consultants such as Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie, Romney Senior Campaign Adviser Stuart Stephens and pollster Neil Neuhaus would never never be hired to run or consult on a national campaign again — and no one would give a dime to their ineffective super PACs, such as American Crossroads.

Mitt Romney’s loss was the death rattle of the establishment Republican Party. Far from signalling a rejection of the Tea Party or grassroots conservatives, the disaster of 2012 signals the beginning of the battle to take over the Republican Party and the opportunity to establish the GOP as the party of small government and constitutional conservatism.

On February 2, the New York Times reported the formation of Rove’s anti-Tea Party PAC.

Today brings word, via Politico, that Tea Party Patriots, an umbrella organization and network for local right-wing groups, will form a new super PAC, apparently designed to fight Rove’s super PAC, which is designed to fight not-quite-super Tea Party PACs such as the aforementioned Senate Conservatives Fund, and the bus-tour-wrangling Tea Party Express. (Are ya with me so far?)

And every day brings another salvo from Richard Viguerie’s Conservative HQ Web site, the latest focusing on Rove’s use of the word “hater” to describe L. Brent Bozell, a Viguerie ally and longtime right-wing operative. (CHQ’s biggest problem with the moniker seems to be that it comes from what it deems to be the liberal lexicon, apparently the repository for all African-American slang.)

Rove has clearly lost his touch at rallying his own troops. Perhaps he’s too distracted with his Judd hateration project, which involves running disparaging ads in Kentucky against an actress who may or may not run as a Democrat for the Bluegrass State’s U.S. Senate seat in 2014 — the seat currently held by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. (Leave Ashley alone!)

But I digress.

For the Tea Party brand, which has been flagging as of late, the Rove attack is likely the best thing that’s happened since Ted Cruz.

Hating on Rove may well prove to be a fundraising bonanza for leaders of the Tea Party astroturf groups. Tea Party Express, as I reported for AlterNet, wasted no time jumping on the Rove super PAC news as a money-grubbing opportunity. ““We are under attack by Karl Rove,” read the subject line of a February “donate here” e-mail blast from TPE.

As Tea Party types waste no time pointing out, Rove’s track record in backing the “establishment Republicans” he claims to be more electable than those pesky Tea Partiers who win GOP primaries is not so great. American Crossroads’ backing of Josh Mandel in Ohio, George Allen in Virginia, Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, Connie Mack in Florida, all Senate candidates — yielded nada. All of those seats were won by Democrats.

In fact, reports the Sunlight Foundation, of the $103.5 million spent by American Crossroads in the 2012 election cycle, only 1.29 percent of those funds achieved the desired results.

For Rove, marshalling his donors’ antipathy to the Tea Party — thanks to the Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock debacles — may be his best hope for a distraction from his failing record.

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