The PJ Tatler

Did the Ron Paul Camp Really Pay Bachmann's Iowa Chairman to Switch? (Update: Paul Campaign Responds, Sort Of)

Last night’s bizarre Judas act is picking up steam. Iowa state Senator Kent Sorenson was Michele Bachmann’s chairman in the state until, three hours after appearing at a campaign stop with her, he suddenly defected to the Ron Paul camp. Bachmann’s camp accused him of being bought by the Paul camp; Sorenson and the Paul camp have both denied.

But now, Sorenson’s own former campaign manager says that he told her that the Paul camp was indeed offering him a lot of money to switch. She says Sorenson told her this as recently as a month ago, according to the New York Daily News:

Susan Geddes, a veteran operative in conservative GOP political circles who managed Sorenson’s 2008 and 2010 legislative races, said Sorenson had told her several times, as recently as last month, that the Paul campaign had offered him money to leave Bachmann’s campaign for the Texas congressman’s.

Geddes said Sorenson had damaged his political future in Iowa by abandoning Bachmann’s campaign less than a week before the caucuses.

“He just committed political suicide,” she said.

To that last part, yes indeed he has, as I noted last night. Nothing says “reliable” like knifing your candidate in the back within days of the vote you were supposed to be helping them win. Any candidate or party would be foolish to seek Sorenson’s support after this.

That said, there is something fundamentally weird about the Bachmann campaign. She hired Ed Rollins to run the show, a move that I noted at the time was going to turn out to be a mistake. It has. Rollins overshadows his candidates and without fail, says things that end up hurting them. He doesn’t seem to know the difference between being a pundit and a campaign manager, the same problem Michael Steele exhibited as RNC chairman. Rollins doesn’t seem to realize that the campaigns he works for aren’t about him, they’re about the candidate and the voters. No longer working for the campaign, Rollins has become a bete noir for the Bachmann camp. Also, given his history, predictable. Now, this Iowa defection embarrasses the Bachmann campaign at a horrible moment. Just when she needs to look credible and viable to find some way to get into the top four, her state chairman jumps ship amid allegations that he did it for payola. What a mess. I don’t think it creates a sympathy vote for her. It makes her look incompetent, and a poor judge of political talent and character. Iowa is truly her Waterloo.

As for the Paul campaign, Sorenson’s defection doesn’t really help them either. Sure, they’ve undermined the candidate who owned Paul on foreign policy in a debate or two, but to what gain? Their shiny new advocate looks like a total flake. He looks dirty after doing this to Bachmann, and so does the Paul camp. If the Paul campaign really bought him, and an apparently knowledgeable source says that may have happened, it was a stupid expenditure that opens the Paul campaign up to charges of corruption. I’m not sure the Paul camp is capable of being embarrassed by anything, but what happened here could be illegal.

Nobody in this story looks good, except for every candidate who is not Michele Bachmann or Ron Paul.

Update: The Paul campaign emails a statement from Wes Enos, who is Bachmann’s political director, which says the following:

I won’t say much about the situation or the conflicting statements beyond this; I can say unequivocally that Kent Sorenson’s decision was, in no way financially motivated.  His decision had more to do with the fact that the Ron Paul supporters have been something of a family to him since he was first elected in 2008 and here in the end, as it becomes more and more apparent that the caucus cycle is coming to an end, Kent believed that he needed to be with them as they stand on the cusp of a potential caucus upset.  While I personally disagree with Kent’s decision, and plan to stay with Michele Bachmann because I truly believe in her, I cannot, in good conscious [sic] watch a good man like Kent Sorenson be attacked as a ‘sell-out’ ….That is simply not the case, and it was not the basis of his decision.

Question: Why is Bachmann’s political director handing a statement to a rival campaign that just did this to his candidate? How many other Bachmann staffers are in communication with Paul’s campaign? This is weird stuff.

If we’re keeping score, that’s two people who say Sorenson switched for money, based on him telling them that he did — Bachmann and Susan Geddes — to two who say he didn’t, and one of those is Sorenson himself. I don’t know whether he did or not, but it’s a sure thing that he is making a mess of two campaigns.