Ed Rollins: Bachmann Not Ready to Go the Distance

Ed Rollins, Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann's former campaign manager, said, in a Monday interview on MSNBC, that the Minnesota Congresswoman does not have the “resources or ability at this point in time” to continue her campaign after the Iowa caucus. Rollins also said it was a mistake for Bachmann to claim that the HPV vaccine may cause mental retardation.

“The game plan was always” to win Iowa, Rollins said. A win in Iowa, under this strategy, would help propel the candidate into greater fundraising and wins in other states.

Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the two frontrunners in the race, do have the resources, according to Rollins, to continue their campaigns “into South Carolina, Florida and other places.”

The Iowa strategy has been tried many times, but only worked once. In the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination race, lesser-known candidate Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter spent most of his time and campaign resources in Iowa. The media attention that came from his surprise victory helped propel him to win the nomination and the presidency.

More recently, in 2008, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee used the Iowa strategy. He won the Iowa caucus and that victory helped him stay in the race, but it was not enough to secure a victory over Arizona Senator John McCain.

On the Democratic side in 2008, Illinois Senator Barack Obama won the Iowa caucus, but unlike Huckabee, his campaign was well-financed and he could have stayed in the race even without the victory.

Bachmann, in an interview with CNN, defended her campaign against the charges made by Rollins, but said the Iowa strategy remains the focus of her campaign.

“Well, our campaign is alive and well and doing very, very well,” Bachmann said. “No other candidate has been in Iowa as much as I have. We've been here 70 to 75 days. We'll continue to be here because we intend to win the all-important Iowa caucuses.”

Rollins also said Bachmann made a mistake when she said that the HPV vaccine may cause “mental retardation.”

During the Sept. 12 Republican presidential debate in Tampa, Fla., Gov. Perry was criticized for his executive order requiring schoolgirls to obtain the HPV vaccine. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that causes cervical cancer.

Some candidates criticized Perry for implementing the policy via executive order, arguing that he should have gone through the legislative process. Others made a parental rights argument, criticizing Perry for including an opt-out provision instead of an opt-in provision. Bachmann also insinuated that the executive order was tied to campaign donations from Merck, the company that makes the vaccine.

Bachmann took the criticisms a step further, however, and said in interviews after the debate that a parent told her that the vaccine caused “mental retardation” in her child.

Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for George W. Bush and conservative columnist for The Washington Post, wrote a stinging rebuke of Bachmann in his Sept. 15 column.

“If Republican presidential candidates want to debate sexual health and hygiene, it would be nice if they displayed more collective knowledge and judgment than your average eighth-grade family-life class,” Gerson wrote.

By bringing up the “mental retardation” claim based solely upon anecdotal evidence, Bachmann turned “a very positive debate” in which the “very significant issues of cronyism and executive overreach” were about Perry and turned it into “an issue about her,” Rollins said. “It's very important that you don't say anything that you can't back up with empirical data.”

“What we tried to do was vet everything that was ever told her. We put a system in play that if someone walks up and gives you a good idea, a good concept, you basically vet it,” Rollins said. The claim that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation, “obviously, wasn't vetted.”

He also suggested that Bachmann has been unprepared for the media scrutiny that comes with being one of the leading candidates in a presidential race, and making inappropriate comments has “been part of her history.”

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