NPR logo Citing Frustration With Strategy, Bachmann's Paid N.H. Staff Quits

Michele Bachmann

Citing Frustration With Strategy, Bachmann's Paid N.H. Staff Quits

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann spoke at the Commonwealth Club of California on Thursday in San Francisco.

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Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann spoke at the Commonwealth Club of California on Thursday in San Francisco.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Rep. Michele Bachmann's paid New Hampshire staff quit Friday, according to a report by James Pindell, political director at WMUR-TV.

It's not that the staffers, a half dozen or so, had soured on the Minnesota congresswoman, Pindell told NPR, it's that her campaign has pretty much ignored New Hampshire since her visit to the state in late June to kick off her candidacy.

"If you're sitting in New Hampshire, you're thinking, 'what am I doing?' " Pindell said, referring to the candidate's staff.

"The final straw was last week when she came up for the Dartmouth debate, and there were tensions with the staff and with what's going on with the campaign," he said. "It was not her, and not a lack of confidence in her."

Bachmann has made clear in recent weeks that her struggling campaign for the Republican nomination runs through Iowa, where her win in last summer's straw poll has so far proved to be the high point of her effort.

Iowa holds the primary season's first contest, caucuses that are scheduled for Jan. 3; New Hampshire is traditionally the first primary contest state. It has not yet set its primary date.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has been the GOP presidential frontrunner in New Hampshire since 2010, Pindell said. But the answer to "who's in second?" has ranged from former New York Mayor Rudy Giulian (who declined to enter the race), to Texas Rep. Ron Paul, to Bachmann, and to former pizza company CEO Herman Cain.

There was a period from late May to June when [Bachmann] was hot, Pindell says, and she had pretty much solidified the Tea Party constituency in New Hampshire, such as it is.

The WMUR Granite State Poll in July had her support at 12 percent; two weeks ago, a new Granite State Poll showed her support at 2 percent.

"She's all but given up here," he said.

At least one of Bachmann's staffers will join Texas Gov. Rick Perry's presidential campaign staff, Pindell reports.

Pindell's story is behind pay wall here.

Update at 4:55 p.m.

Bachmann has told Radio Iowa that reports of her New Hampshire staff quitting are not true. As she told O. Kay Henderson:

"That is a shocking story to me," Bachmann said. "I don't know where that came from. We have called staff in New Hampshire to find out where that came from and the staff have said that isn't true, so I don't know if this is just a bad story that's being fed by a different candidate or campaign. I have no idea where this came from, but we've made calls and it's certainly not true."

A top campaign aide made similar denials to The New York Times.

Nonetheless, as first reported by ABC affiliate WMUR, the outgoing staff include: Southern New Hampshire field director Caroline Gigler (who is reportedly going to join Rick Perry's campaign, according to Pindell), Nicole Yurek, Tom Lukacz, Director of Operations Matt LeDuc and longtime Bachmann friend radio-host Jeff Chidester.

ABC News is now reporting online that the staff had "not been paid for a month."

When asked for comment by NPR, Bachmann's campaign responded with a written statement from campaign manager Keith Nahigian:

We have a great team in New Hampshire and we have not been notified that anyone is leaving the campaign. We look forward to spending more time in the Granite State between now and the primary, but our campaign has emphasized that our main focus is the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa and we are continuing to build efforts there. While she will campaign in other states, Michele will spend the majority of her time in Iowa, doing what she does better than all the other candidates - retail politics - leading up to the all important caucuses.