The Bachmann campaign announced over the weekend that campaign manager Ed Rollins would be vacating that role and assume the more auxiliary position of "senior advisor." Rollins' health was cited as the explanation for the move. Though it does seem possible that the daily grind of a campaign could get to a 68-year-old, it looks like there was more going on in this case, as Rollins' deputy and ally David Polyansky left the campaign on the same day.
I, for one, am not all too surprised by the transition. Rollins is made out to be one of the savants of Republican operatives (his decision to work for Bachmann helped boost her from the fringe to the crème of the crop candidates), but he has a checkered past with few actual successes. Rollins struck it big by managing Ronald Reagan's 1984 reelection campaign that won 49 of the 50 states. Yet after that, his candidates went nowhere. He advised Jack Kemp's 1988 campaign that failed to win any primaries, resigned just two months into helming Ross Perot's 1992, and led Mike Huckabee's 2008 campaign that went little further than winning the Iowa Caucuses.
Prior to this weekend's news, there were visible tensions between Rollins and the rest of Bachmann's apparatus. The night after Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Poll last month, she visited Waterloo for a county Republican dinner. As reporters milled about after the event, a handful of us noticed Rollins leaning against a car near the campaign bus. He began chatting with us briefly before Bachmann's Communications Director Alice Stewart came over and subtly indicated that Rollins shouldn't say too much. "You've done a pretty good job Alice, 50 days I've stayed away," Rollins joked.
She had good reason to worry. Within days of joining the campaign, Rollins put his foot in his mouth. "Sarah [Palin] has not been serious over the last couple of years," he told a conservative radio host. "She got the Vice Presidential thing handed to her, she didn't go to work in the sense of trying to gain more substance, she gave up her governorship." It may have been a truthful statement, but it put the Bachmann campaign into damage control as they began seeking out support among the Tea Party base. Rollins receded from the spotlight after that (thus his 50 days quip in Waterloo) and wasn't a major presence on the campaign trail. But right before the new "restructuring" Rollins did it again, telling The Washington Post that Bachmann had become a second-tier candidate behind Mitt Romney and Rick Perry.
Rollins' departure could be a sign that the Bachmann campaign is reeling after Ames when -- instead of the expected post-Straw Poll boost -- their poll numbers continue to fall after Perry's entrance to the field. But it could just as easily be that the rest of the campaign staff came to their senses that Rollins is nothing more than a frequent campaign loser, prone to running his mouth a little too much. And Bachmann has never been shy to let staff go. As the AP noted, for someone who hasn't been in Congress all that long Bachmann has sure gone through a lot of staffers:
She has experienced frequent staff changes in her congressional office since 2007, and not just in low-level positions that typically see a parade of younger, inexperienced staffers bouncing from one office to the next. She has had six chiefs of staff in four years, five press secretaries, five legislative directors and three communications directors.