A backbiting joint letter from presidential contender Michele Bachmann’s former New Hampshire staffers spells out how frustration with the Minnesota Republican’s national staff led the entire team to jump ship.
The disgruntled remarks open the curtain to fractures within Bachmann’s campaign that she and her aides have insisted don’t exist.
The sour resignation of Bachmann’s New Hampshire staff added to a series of campaign departures that have left many wondering whether Bachmann’s top supporters are losing faith in her candidacy.
After campaign manager Ed Rollins stepped down in September, he embarked on a media tour in which he questioned her viability and spoke openly about her weaknesses. Pollster Ed Goeas left after last week’s debate. Other staffers have gone quietly, which the campaign has insisted was part of its planned strategy to shift resources efficiently.
The Minnesota lawmaker raised $4.1 million during the third quarter of the year — much more than some of the other Republican candidates — but she has only $1.5 million on hand going into the final few months before the first primary contests.
She has also declined steadily in the polls since she announced her presidential bid. She came in sixth in an Associated Press/GfK poll released Thursday, with 4 percent of the vote.
But the mass exodus of Bachmann’s New Hampshire team was made even more stinging by the chain of events leading up to its joint statement.
Bachmann has long made plain that Iowa — not New Hampshire — was her top focus in the primary campaign. On Friday, when a New Hampshire TV station reported that the staffers had quit, Bachmann called in to an Iowa radio station to say the story was untrue, that no staffers had called to resign, as her staff was calling team members to figure out what had happened. Her campaign manager also released a statement saying he had “not been notified that anyone is leaving the campaign.”
When it became clear the reports were true and one ex-staffer, Caroline Gigler, had already jumped to rival Rick Perry’s campaign, it created a second negative storyline for Bachmann: that she doesn’t know what’s happening inside her own campaign.
The letter released Monday offered a glimpse into how that type of miscommunication could occur.
“Team members were repeatedly ignored regarding simple requests, sometimes going weeks with little or no contact with the national team,” they wrote.
The former New Hampshire staffers said they maintained a sense of loyalty to Bachmann as a candidate and were willing to continue helping her despite lingering uncertainty about payment of wages.
“Sadly, they were deceived, constantly left out of the loop regarding key decisions, and relegated to second-class citizens within a campaign in which they were the original members,” the group said.
The ex-staffers laid out a timeline very different from the one put forth by the Bachmann campaign, claiming that the New Hampshire campaign manager, Jeff Chidester, resigned in an email 10 days ago. When nobody reached out to the other staffers to address their concerns, they called it quits.
Bachmann spokeswoman Alice Stewart dismissed the significance of the departures without addressing the allegations that the team had been mistreated.
“In terms of New Hampshire, we had a few people that left; we still have some people there; we’re bringing more on,” she said Monday on MSNBC.
It is unclear whom Bachmann still has on the ground in the state; the letter from her former state team seemed to pre-empt Stewart’s assertion by noting that “the entire N.H. team has departed.”
But by downplaying the relevance of the New Hampshire group’s desertion, Bachmann’s campaign seemed to aggravate the perception that they see the first-in-the-nation primary state as unimportant — another of the grievances lodged by the departing staffers.
“At the end of the day, this hasn’t changed our strategy one bit. We planned all along to focus on Iowa,” Stewart said.
Bachmann frequently points to her win in Iowa’s Ames Straw Poll in August and her childhood in Iowa as indications she can be victorious there. The state traditionally holds the first caucus in the primary elections.
The New Hampshire staffers wrote that while they didn’t like how they were treated, “more concerning was how abrasive, discourteous and dismissive some within the national team were towards many New Hampshire citizens.”
“Jim will be a huge asset to our campaign moving forward as we take our conservative message to Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire and beyond,” Bachmann said.
This first version of this story was posted at 1:14 p.m.