Ed Rollins is stepping down as Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign manager, while deputy campaign manager David Polyansky is leaving the Minnesota congresswoman's team. The senior departures from the Bachmann campaign come as new polling indicates that the candidate is losing ground to Texas Gov. Rick Perry in the Republican primary race.
Rollins confirmed the news, first reported by Politico, saying that he will be remaining on in an advisory role, citing his age and health as his major concerns. "I'm 68 years old," he told CNN. "I had a stroke a year and a half ago. Working 12, 14-hour days-- it's wearing." Rollins served as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign manager during the 2008 election.
Bachmann spokeswoman Alice Stewart told Politico that the departures didn't amount to a"shake-up," and noted that Rollins' move in particular wasn't a surprise. "The plan all along has been to restructure things after the [Ames] straw poll." Stewart described the moves as "restructuring" in interviews with other news outlets.
Bachmann on Aug. 13 captured first place in the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa, staking her to an early top spot in the 2012 primary. But she has struggled since then to build on that momentum.
Rollins himself argued in a Washington Post interview published Sunday that Perry's entry into the race blunted Bachmann's momentum. Perry announced his candidacy on the day of the Ames straw poll, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty withdrew after his disappointing finish in the poll--and both moves, Rollins argued, undercut Bachmann's bid to build a significant lead from her straw poll victory.
Rollins had also told the Post that Americans now view the 2012 GOP campaign as a two-way race between Perry and Mitt Romney. "The Perry-Romney race is now the story, with us the third candidate," Rollins said. He predicted the upcoming presidential debates would afford Bachmann a chance to recapture momentum in the race.
Staff turnover is nothing new for the congresswoman. She has a reputation in Washington for going through employees rapidly; she has, for example, acquired several new chiefs-of-staff during a relatively brief tenure. Some strategists and pundits, such as National Journal's Major Garrett, have speculated that the high turnover on Bachmann's congressional staff could bode ill for her presidential campaign.