The PJ Tatler

Ed Rollins' hire was Michele Bachmann's first campaign mistake

His hire was also her first real campaign decision. If you’re not up to speed on the story, here’s what’s going on. Rep. Bachmann hired veteran Republican campaign strategist Ed Rollins to manage her campaign. Campaign managers have to carry a few qualities, among them toughness, a bit of ruthlessness, communications and fundraising savvy (and there are many qualities packed into those two qualities), and a certain ability to provide useful leadership and simultaneously blend into the background. That last is because, while they manage the campaign, the campaign isn’t about them. It’s about the candidate.

But Ed Rollins tends to overshadow his candidates, and has already done so since Bachmann hired him. He came out swinging this week, declaring that Sarah Palin is not a “serious” person. Whether you agree with that or not, the fact is that Bachmann’s and Palin’s support bases overlap on the issues, and at some point Bachmann will presumably have to depend on Palin supporters. She’ll need them to win the primary, and to win the general if she wins the primary. But if they’re alienated from the start by what they’re hearing from Bachmann’s campaign, they’re less likely to support Bachmann.

Campaign managers are hired to make it easier to win, but Rollins has made it harder for Bachmann to win. And today, he made it harder again by insinuating that Palin isn’t intelligent.

Bachmann will “be so much more substantive [than Palin],” Rollins said. “People are going to say, ‘I gotta make a choice and go with the intelligent woman who’s every bit as attractive.’”

Again, if you want Palin’s base to support your candidate at some point, it’s not a good idea to slam Palin in such personal ways. And it’s especially not a good idea when Rollins has been quoted insinuating that Bachmann herself also is not serious.

Ed Rollins has been among the GOP’s mouthier consultants for a couple of decades, but he’s seldom mouthy in a productive way in the way that, say, James Carville is for the Democrats. Carville is mouthy and annoying to to the right because he consistently attacks the right and finds ways to get under our skin. Carville’s mouth is a targeted weapon most of the time, because contrary to the way he comes off, he’s very disciplined. Rollins isn’t disciplined, and therefore tends to hurt his own side and even his own candidates.

His hire is an indication that Rep. Bachmann may not be all that good a judge of political talent.