Top Iowa conservative asks Bachmann to drop out of presidential race

Bob Vander Plaats, the influential evangelical leader in Iowa, called Michele Bachmann on Saturday and asked her to drop out of the presidential race.

Vander Plaats — who endorsed Rick Santorum on Tuesday — asked her to consider the vice presidential slot instead, according to a source close to the Bachmann campaign.

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The conservative leader suggested Bachmann consider playing second fiddle to either Santorum or Rick Perry, the source said. Bachmann declined.

"She's polling ahead of Santorum," the source told The Hill. "It's ridiculous."

News of the phone call came the same day that Vander Plaats revealed his personal support for Santorum, but also announced that the Family Leader, the influential social conservative group he founded, would not be making an official endorsement in the GOP race.

Seeking an advantage among the evangelical voters who exert heavy influence over the GOP caucuses in Iowa, the Republican candidates have dutifully courted The Family Leader's support — and especially those candidates like Bachmann, Santorum and Perry, who are running on a social conservative platform and seeking to raise their profiles in the two weeks left before the Iowa caucuses.

Bachmann has campaigned heavily in Iowa — she is in the middle of a tour of all 99 counties — and is counting on a win in the Jan. 3 caucuses to give her struggling campaign momentum.

Despite the request for her to drop out from the group's leader, Bachmann's campaign praised Ihe Family Leader's decision not to endorse Tuesday, issuing a statement from evangelical faith leaders who support Bachmann that declared her firm support for the group's core principles.

“Michele Bachmann is a biblically qualified, capable, no-compromise leader who is the only truly consistent conservative in the race," the faith leaders wrote. "She has met every criterion that the Family Leader has established."

Vander Plaats did not immediately respond to a message left inquiring about the phone call, which was first reported by Politico.

Bachmann, who surged to first place in Iowa in July and August, when she won the straw poll in Ames, has since seen her support there ebb, and has fought back against the perception that she is no longer relevant in the race.

In recent polls of the state she has come in with around 9 percent or 10 percent of support. Santorum has trailed near the bottom, often struggling to break into double digits.

She lashed out at Newt Gingrich for treating her like a student during Thursday's GOP presidential debate, when he alleged that Bachmann has a hard time with the facts.

"I am a serious candidate for the President of the United States," she said.