Now that Rick Perry has stolen her thunder and rendered her a distant third place in the Republican nomination race, ex-staffers are revealing some entirely unsurprising details about Michele Bachmann’s many weaknesses.
In interviews with the Star Tribune, six former Bachmann staffers said the sudden resignations recently of campaign manager Ed Rollins and deputy David Polyansky reflected her longstanding reluctance to trust the advice of top political handlers hired from outside of her family circle and could put her campaign in danger of foundering.
It’s not in danger of foundering, it’s over. Since Perry got into the race, Bachmann’s support has evaporated. She’s now at 5 percent, with Perry at 31% and Romney at 24%. She’s tied with Gingrich and Herman Cain at this point (and I wonder if Brad Marston is still convinced that Cain is going to win the nomination — and if he’s going to pay the $2500 he bet me on it).
Her campaign has downplayed her recent campaign shakeup as a normal “restructuring” in a fast-moving race. But hanging over Bachmann’s reorganization is a history of staff turnover that includes five congressional chiefs of staff in as many years, as well as five press secretaries, four legislative directors and three communications directors.
The six former staffers who spoke to the Star Tribune praised their former boss as talented and demanding. But they also said that her reliance on her instincts and those of a tight-knit cadre of family advisers — chiefly her husband, Marcus — explains a history of turnover considered extraordinary even by Congress’ revolving-door standards.
Those who have broken with her — some of them respected GOP operatives who would speak only off the record — say she demands utter loyalty and is wary of professional advisers.
“The Achilles heel of her campaign is that when things get really tough you need some seasoned professionals,” said former Minnesota GOP Party Chairman Ron Carey, who served as Bachmann’s chief of staff until a falling out last year. “Her history is not to rely on outsiders, even if they have a lot more experience and savvy.”
This is inevitable for a true believer. Unlike Rick Perry, Bachmann isn’t faking it — she really believes that God wants her to be president and is going to lead her to the White House promised land. If you believe that you have a direct line to God, you aren’t going to listen to mere mortals like Ed Rollins. Perry is a demagogue and a political opportunist exploiting religious fundamentalism for electoral gain; Bachmann is a genuine wingnut.
“She’s tough to work for,” said north metro radio host Jack Tomczak, who was let go after working on the congressional and campaign sides of Bachmann’s political organization. “On the positive side, she can be very demanding, and not everybody’s up to the task. On the less flattering side, she can be erratic and irrational.”
The best example, Tomczak said, was Bachmann’s “House Call” Tea Party rally at the U.S. Capitol to protest President Obama’s health care overhaul in 2009. The event was Bachmann’s brainchild and drew thousands, despite the skepticism of congressional Republican leaders and some of her own staff. Afterward, Tomczak said, Bachmann wanted a follow-up event where protesters would surround the Capitol banging pots and pans. That idea was nixed.
“Both of those events sounded crazy,” Tomczak said. “One of them was pulled off spectacularly, and the other one was crazy.”
I think that’s a bit overly optimistic. The problem isn’t that Bachmann can be irrational; the problem is that Bachmann is irrational.