The autopsy of Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign has a lot of the typical reasons for what went wrong -- fights between staff, money, priorities, etc. -- but also has an unusually high number of funny ones. The Des Moines Register's Jennifer Jacobs talked to several Bachmann aides about how the congresswoman went from winning the Ames, Iowa straw poll to losing the caucuses so badly she had to drop out. A few of our favorite explanations:
The bald guy
Bachmann developed a reputation for being a diva -- staying on her bus during campaign stops, leaving events too early. And voters couldn't get close to her, thanks to her celebrity-style security:
The Iowa aides also logged some complaints about “the bald guy” — the burly, earpiece-wearing advance man Craig Handzlik — from voters who were told they couldn’t approach or talk to the candidate, [Iowa political director Wes] Enos said.
They gave her false facts that made her look like an idiot
In September, after Bachmann wrongly said vaccines might cause retardation, The New York Times' Trip Gabriel reported, "People close to the campaign, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mrs. Bachmann is often influenced by the last person she speaks with on an issue rather than maintaining discipline in communicating a message." It turns out that the last person she spoke with was usually those people close to the campaign. Jacobs reports that some of the most embarrassing factual errors Bachmann made were the result of things her staffers said.
While discussing where to hold her campaign kickoff in Waterloo, Rollins, then the campaign manager, mentioned that he had wanted Ronald Reagan in 1984 to visit Wayne’s birthplace. “I think it’s near Waterloo,” he said to Bachmann and the other aides in the meeting. [Campaign manager Keith] Nahigian later learned that it wasn’t, but Bachmann ended up repeating the error.
Bachmann said it was the home of John Wayne. It turned out John Wayne Gacy had spent time in Waterloo instead.
Nahigian gave her the talking point that she used on Aug. 16 in South Carolina that it was Elvis Presley’s birthday when it was actually the anniversary of his death, aides said.
In September, Gabriel reported that the time Bachmann said the American Revolution started in Concord, New Hampshire, instead of Concord, Massachusetts, it was because staffers had given her wrong info.
Some evangelicals are sexist
Jacobs reports that the campaign staff thinks Bachmann was hurt by sexist attitudes among her core supporters. Rick Santorum's Iowa coalitions director, Jamie Johnson, emailed a friend in June that children would be hurt by a woman president. "The question then comes, 'Is it God's highest desire, that is, his biblically expressed will... to have a woman rule the institutions of the family, the church, and the state?'" the email said. Johnson claims he didn't mean for the email to be made public, Jacob's reports.
“We did believe that sexism -- I use the stronger word misogyny -- was at play," Peter Waldron, Bachmann’s faith outreach coordinator, told the paper. Several pastors said "hat a female could not be a civil magistrate" Waldron says. What's interesting about these complaints is staffers seem surprised that one of the most traditional groups of voters might be uncomfortable with a female leader. After all, Bachmann signed the Family Leader's pledge that contained the rather assertion that black families were better off under slavery. That paragraph was removed. You know what wasn't? The part about making sure female soldiers don't serve combat roles.
Asked if that happened on his radio show, conservative host Steve Deace said: “Let me just say I saw things done by her staff that wouldn’t typically be done by the staff of someone running for an office of such stature, and leave it at that. … No need kicking a sister when she’s down.”
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.