A shakeup in Rep. Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign team could raise more questions about her ability to win the GOP nomination. Ed Rollins, a national political strategist, stepped down as campaign manager and will serve as a senior adviser. Deputy campaign manager David Polyansky, a close alley of Rollins, has left the campaign.
Rollins cited health concerns as his reason for taking a more limited role in the campaign. “I wish I was 40 years old, but I’m not. I’m 68 years old, I had a stroke a year and a half ago. I’m worn out,” Rollins told Politico.
Rollins and Polyansky helped Bachmann secure a victory in last month's Iowa Straw Poll, but they have been unable to gain traction from the grassroots victory, mostly due to Texas Governor Rick Perry's entry into the race.
Perry announced his candidacy the same day as the Iowa Straw Poll, which was likely a strategy to deflate any momentum the winner might have gained. The strategy seems to have worked. The press has mostly paid attention to Perry and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney since then, and Bachmann's poll numbers have declined in the same period.
Perry and Bachmann both appeal to the Tea Party and social conservative wings of the Republican Party. Perry's entry into the race, therefore, probably pulled away many of Bachmann's supporters. If former Alaska Governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin enters the race, that could further diminish Bachmann's support.
Since Perry's announcement, it appears the only press coverage she has received has been more negative than positive. She said, for instance, in a campaign speech, “I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We've had an earthquake; we've had a hurricane. He said, 'Are you going to start listening to me here?'”
Bachmann was criticized for saying that God caused the disasters as a warning to politicians in Washington, but Bachmann later clarified that the remark was made in jest. Video of the speech shows Bachmann smiling and the audience laughing as she made the remark.
Bachmann has also made minor gaffes that have caught the media's attention, such as misidentifying John Wayne's birthplace and confusing Elvis Presley's date of death with his birthday.
More significantly, she recently claimed that if she were elected president gasoline would cost less than $2 per gallon. Since oil is a global commodity and its price is determined by worldwide supply and demand, the claim seemed outrageous to many.
These gaffes prompted conservative columnist George Will to ask last Friday, “Incompetent staffers are feeding you false information. Has anyone been fired? Do you believe that when there is no punishment for failure, failures multiply?”
Rollins and Polyansky both worked together on former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee's presidential race in 2008. In that race, they helped Huckabee's underfunded and lesser known campaign win the Iowa caucus and eventually finish in second place.
Rollins has a long political career and has worked on some other high-profile presidential campaigns in the past, including those of President Ronald Reagan (1984), Senator Jack Kemp (1988), and independent candidate Ross Perot (1992).
The New York state Republican Party announced that Polyansky will become its new political director the same day he left the Bachmann campaign.
Republican sources told Politico that Polyansky had some “strategic differences” with the campaign, and that more turnover in the campaign staff may come in the next few weeks.
Bachmann already has a reputation for frequent turnover among her staff. In only two terms in office, she has had four chiefs of staff and five press secretaries. In her 2010 congressional reelection, her finance director left during the campaign, even though the campaign had successfully raised more than $4 million.
Bachmann spokeswoman Alice Stewart said that the campaign had already planned to restructure after the Iowa Straw Poll. Keith Nahigian will move into the campaign manager position.
The most recent Real Clear Politics average of seven separate polls shows Bachmann tied with Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) for fourth place, behind Perry, Romney and Palin, with 8 percent of the vote.