New York Governor Eliot Spitzer announced this morning that he would step down as of Monday, ending a career that saw a meteoric rise followed by an even more meteoric fall.

“I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people’s work… for this reason I am resigning from the office of governor,” said Spitzer, who admitted that, “I look at my time as governor with a sense of what might have been.”

In a two-minute, forty-second statement, Spitzer apologized and admitted to wrongdoing — although the governor who still faces potential prosecution in a money-for-sex scandal avoided going into detail of any kind.

Spitzer said he had consulted with the man who will succeed him, Lieutenant Governor David Paterson, and agreed to the Monday resignation in order to achieve an “orderly transition.”

To the end, Spitzer’s wife, Silda Wall, and a senior adviser, Lloyd Constantine, had urged the governor not to quit.

One argument for staying on held that Spitzer could claim that, while he made a profound personal misstep, he was being targeted because he was a Democrat who had taken on Wall Street.

Last night, the popular activist website www.democrats.com launched a Save Spitzer campaign that pushed this line.

The message was outlined in a letter that promoted an online petition campaign:

Dear Governor Spitzer,

Don’t let the Republicans and the rightwing media drive you out of office!

You made a lot of powerful enemies in your career because you took on the most powerful crooks on Wall Street. Now your enemies are trying to get even by destroying your career and your life. Don’t let them!

The whole investigation by the Bush Administration stinks to high heaven. This isn’t a case of “structuring” or “money laundering.” The FBI never investigates johns – so why are they investigating you?

The answer is obvious. George Bush and Karl Rove turned the Justice Department into the political destruction arm of the Republican Party. They’ve prosecuted 5.6 Democrats for every Republican.

That’s why former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman is rotting in jail, and that’s what they want to do to you.

As Americans, we are outraged by Bush’s endless abuses of justice. If anyone should be removed from office, it’s George Bush!

Governor Spitzer, please stand and fight against this outrageous and naked partisan Republican assault. We support you!

The letter and petition were posted by Bob Fertik, the prime mover behind democrats.com, on Tuesday evening. An email blast to the group’s extensive lists drew a rapid response that briefly made it tough to reach its site as Spitzer backers — or, perhaps more precisely, people who simply do not trust any prosecution of a Democrat by the Bush administration — rushed to sign on.

It was tough to see how Spitzer could hold on, especially as details of the prostitution sting were revealed. Each new report cast the governor in a staggeringly unflattering light, and raised speculation about Mann Act violations continues.

Still, the governor listened for a day to the case for making a fight of it.

In the end, however, he was smart enough to recognize that, even if he tried to appeal to New York’s Democratic electorate by trying to make his struggle a partisan fight, this was not a battle he was going to win.