When Newt Gingrich's campaign imploded this summer, his former staffers quickly moved to get the narrative out there that it wasn't their fault he was failing to catch on among Republican voters. All the blame fell on their crazy ex-boss, or maybe his wife: Gingrich was lazy, went on luxury cruises, was whipped by a demanding wife, they told the press. Now that Michele Bachmann's campaign looks like it's struggling, her aides are doing the same thing. Anonymous aides explained to The National Review's Robert Costa that Bachmann's campaign was crippled by a war between aides in the ground and aides on her bus.
Half a dozen Bachmann staffers have quit in a month, but some departures were "the plan all along" Bachmann's campaign said. Those that quit have been better at doing P.R. for themselves than the ones still working for her are doing for their candidate. So, while Costa is detailing the bitter agenda of former staffers, let's see what mistakes they think she made by not taking their excellent advice:
Betting it all on the Ames straw poll. Bachmann's staffers thought they could kill Tim Pawlenty's campaign and steal his place as the Not Mitt Romney Candidate by winning big in the August poll.
Not everyone in Bachmann’s orbit, however, thought this was the smart play. Winning Ames, as one former associate explains, costs millions. For the fledgling effort of a House member, pouring cash into a straw poll and hoping for a political payoff was, at best, risky. Lose it and you could be finished; win it, and you have momentum, but less money, a harsher spotlight, and no tangible electoral gain.Bachmann shrugged off such concerns, aides say. ... Ed Rollins, the campaign manager at the time, argued with her about this, asking her to reconsider her Ames emphasis. But she won out, so Rollins and his deputy, David Polyansky, began to coordinate an Iowa strategy, centered on outreach to evangelical voters.
Yet as the crowds rallied at ISU, internally, the campaign was in disarray, with nonstop infighting. Bachmann’s message, her policy positions, early-state plans, media strategy — everything became a quarrel.
Rollins, still the campaign manager, was torn: He was reluctant to fire senior staff and upset Bachmann, but knew the campaign was collapsing ... Rollins grew increasingly exasperated with Bachmann’s decisions; the others told the congresswoman not to sweat the former Reagan strategist’s off-site demands.That group on the bus ... began to hold greater sway over every detail, from debate prep to messaging. Even on the media front, where Rollins had built valuable relationships, he was overruled.
To Rollins’s chagrin, she would not get off of her bus at the event until Perry was finished speaking. Rollins wanted her to go in, embrace Perry, and -- with a grin -- welcome him, while reminding him that he was late to the party. Bachmann wanted none of it. Instead, she stayed on her bus as Perry ate dinner with local Republicans and gave an upbeat speech.
By early September, Rollins and Polyansky started to get the message — their all-Iowa focus was not going to win the day. Bachmann liked O’Donnell and Nahigian’s proposal, which kept the focus on Iowa but looked to South Carolina, New Hampshire, and other early states as must-play primaries. The “bus crew” rationale was that if she won Iowa, she’d need to have teams in the other states in order to sustain the campaign. Rollins thought that was foolish.
Rollins disagreed, saying her advance team and media advisers needed to get disciplined, and that to cut off her money raisers would send a poor message to the donor community. After a couple weeks of related discussions, Rollins and Polyansky knew it was time to leave. They were no longer in any real sense managing the campaign.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.