Is it all over for Michele Bachmann?
Probably not – at least until the Iowa caucuses Jan. 3, where she’s banking on her roots in the state and tea party credentials to carry the day in that fairly conservative vote.
But Friday was not the best day in the Minnesota congresswoman’s fight for the Republican presidential nomination.
Her whole staff in New Hampshire – the first state to hold a presidential primary – resigned, according to multiple news sources. Her staff of five in the Granite State left "over deep frustration with the campaign's lack of commitment" to the state, reported WMUR-TV in Manchester.
"It certainly underscores the impression that New Hampshire isn't a priority for her,” former Republican state legislator Fran Wendelboe told Reuters. “She's totally written us off.”
The dust hasn’t settled yet as Bachmann campaign officials try to figure out exactly what happened and how to respond.
“We have a great team in New Hampshire, [and] we have not been notified that anyone is leaving the campaign,” campaign manager Keith Nahigian said in a statement Friday afternoon. “We look forward to spending more time in the Granite State between now and the primary.”
Maybe so, but Ms. Bachmann has spent little time there so far – none at all between June and the debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover earlier this month. And the New Hampshire Union Leader quotes a Republican close to the Bachmann campaign there confirming the departures. The source also charges that the New Hampshire staffers had been all but shut out by the national staff, receiving “nothing from the national campaign, no logistical support whatsoever.”
Does the kerfuffle sound familiar? Maybe like when Newt Gingrich’s entire staff quit in protest over what they saw as his lack of interest in the traditional campaigning – shaking hands, eating deep-fried food at county fairs, kissing babies – which he eschews?
That was back in June, and it was immediately followed by a nose dive in the polls for Mr. Gingrich. Still, the former House Speaker’s effort did not completely crash and burn. In fact, after a series of debate performances which brought him good reviews as the avuncular (if sometimes cranky) professor among a pack of more contentious competitors, his poll numbers crept back up to the respectable middle range.
Noting that the ultimate presidential nominee rarely wins both New Hampshire and Iowa, Bachmann is putting her effort into the Hawkeye State, where she won the Iowa Republican straw poll in August.
It makes sense, particularly since Mitt Romney – former governor of neighboring Massachusetts – is way ahead in New Hampshire polls. In the latest WMUR Granite State Poll, Romney got 37 percent, three times as much as second-place finisher Herman Cain and miles ahead of Bachmann’s scant 2 percent.
Bachmann, who heads the congressional Tea Party Caucus, may be counting on Iowa as the major element in her comeback strategy. But even there, she faces major challenges.
In the Real Clear Politics survey of the most recent polls, she’s in single digits – way behind Messrs. Cain and Romney.
Bachmann’s staff exodus is the latest in a series of departures from the campaign since her straw poll win in Iowa, notes Bloomberg News. Campaign manager Ed Rollins and deputy manager David Polyansky quit last month, followed by pollster Ed Goeas. Longtime aide Andy Parrish also left the campaign’s Iowa office to return to work in Bachmann’s congressional office.