The XX Factor

Bachmann’s Internal Campaign Squabbles

Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

If history is any guide, this new Reuters story on internal conflicts in Michele Bachmann’s campaign may be just the first in a series. Last night’s debate, with its focus on the two-man battle between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, rendered the Minnesota congresswoman a footnote. As Weigel notes, she will try to nab the spotlight again tonight with a response to the president’s jobs speech. But so much has changed since the last time Bachmann delivered a “rogue” one-woman rebuttal to the president – remember her address back in January after the State of the Union? She was derided for the attention-grabbing ploy and for seeming to speak to the wrong camera, but her star was on the rise then, and in retrospect, that unconventional approach seemed savvy. Tonight, she may seem irrelevant.

Which brings us back to the Reuters piece, which will read as familiar to folks who followed Bachmann’s problems with staff retention before she entered the presidential race, not to mention anyone who read that more recent exposé of the candidate’s supposedly crippling migraines. Bachmann has problems with the people who work for her. The recent demotion of campaign chief Ed Rollins and the departure of deputy David Polyansky were preceded by a history of high turnover in her previous offices. So why did this most recent shake-up take place?

Rollins claimed he was cutting back on campaign duties out of concern for her health, but Reuters suggests more was going on. The news agency reports that Bachmann felt top advisers were overriding her wishes, “not letting her make key decisions” and “staging over-slick campaign events that do not fit into her folksy style.” A source said ” they are keeping her hidden. …They are managing her to the nth degree. They are afraid she’s going to mess it up.” Another source said Bachmann felt she was being pushed to focus too much on Iowa alone, instead of developing a “national strategy.” Fundraising troubles caused by Perry’s entry into the race last month may also be causing problems, sources said.

Campaigns in trouble tend to yield stories about campaigns in trouble – that’s nothing new. But given the history of difficulties among Bachmann’s staff, I wonder if this is the first trickle in what could become a steady stream of stories about internal dissention in that operation.