As Iowa's Kent Sorenson jumps to Ron Paul ship, rat analogies abound

Michele Bachmann lost her Iowa campaign co-chairman, Kent Sorenson, to Ron Paul on Wednesday. But state Senator Sorenson himself may stand to lose the most by his defection.

Charles Dharapak/AP
Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson speaks at a rally for Republican presidential candidate, Ron Paul at the Iowa State Fair Grounds in Des Moines, Iowa, Wednesday. Sorensen, formerly Iowa campaign chairman of Michele Bachmann, announced his support for Ron Paul.

The defection of Kent Sorenson, co-chairman of Michele Bachmann’s Iowa campaign, to Ron Paul deals an embarrassing blow to the Minnesota congresswoman.

Representative Bachmann is languishing in the polls, and state Senator Sorenson’s sudden departure Wednesday night has that telltale look of a rat jumping off a sinking ship. Congressman Paul of Texas is in a statistical dead heat for the lead in Iowa with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney five days before the Iowa caucuses. (Both are in the mid-20s.) The once-surging Newt Gingrich has been fading.

Iowa Republicans vote in caucuses around the state next Tuesday night, the first nominating contest of 2012.

Maybe Sorenson saw Rick Santorum emerging from the back of the back – he’s gained 11 points in the last month per the new CNN/Time poll – and wanted to lend a hand. If so, Sorenson is probably wasting his time. Endorsements are not a significant driver of votes. Bachmann claims that Paul offered Sorenson “a large sum of money.” Sorenson says that’s not true. He also won’t be getting a salary, says Paul campaign chairman Jesse Benton.

Apparently Sorenson wants to be with a potential winner – and to help stop Mr. Romney.

“The fact is, there is a clear top tier in the race for the Republican nomination for president, both here in Iowa and nationally,” Sorenson said in a statement. “Ron Paul is easily the most conservative of this group.”

But money could still be a factor: Paul has amassed a substantial campaign war chest, and Bachmann and Santorum have not. By going with Paul, Sorenson is now part of an operation that has the resources to run ads and fund a major get-out-the-vote drive.

In the end, the biggest impact on Sorenson’s move might be on Sorenson himself. The tea-party-backed Republican is fairly new to the Iowa legislature, having been elected to the state House in 2008 and state Senate in 2010. Now he is best known for abandoning his candidate right before the Iowa caucuses, and in a not-pretty fashion.

Sorenson attended a Bachmann event Wednesday afternoon, though did not say much, citing numbness from dental work, according to The Des Moines Register. Still, he “appeared with Bachmann and clearly offered indications of support for her candidacy,” the paper reports.

Within a few hours, he was on the phone with the Paul campaign. Sorenson told The Register he had been considering the switch for a couple of days, but made the decision that evening. He then drove to a 7 p.m. Paul rally at the Iowa fairgrounds in Des Moines and appeared before the crowd of 500 people. By 7:30 p.m. local time, the Paul campaign had released a lengthy statement from Sorenson.

“The decision I am making today is one of the most difficult I have made in my life,” he begins. “But given what’s at stake for our country, I have decided I must take this action.”

Sorenson had been a key early supporter of Bachmann, and served as a regular surrogate for her campaign. Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll in August, an early test of organizational strength and voter enthusiasm, barely beating out Paul. But since then, her poll numbers have sunk steadily. She is now averaging 9 percent among Iowa Republicans. But Sorenson may be the bigger loser. He can no longer claim loyalty as a character trait. 

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