The alliance between likely Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and possible candidate Sarah Palin appears to be fraying.
And it's being fueled largely by Bachmann's new campaign manager, Ed Rollins. On Tuesday, veteran Republican strategist Rollins took some shots at Palin. “Sarah has not been serious over the last couple of years,” he said in an interview on Fox News Radio.
“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.”
Bachmann is expected to launch her campaign this month in Iowa, while Palin still is mulling her options. Both have strong support from conservatives.
In public, the two remain allies, with the friendship forged when former Alaska Gov. Palin went to Minnesota to campaign for the congresswoman in her difficult re-election bid last year.
Although that appearance was a success, there were disagreements over logistics at the finish, according to Politico. And ever since, Palin has voiced “disdain” for Bachmann privately, a Palin associate told the news service. This source says that many Palin supporters view Bachmann as simply riding on Palin’s coattails.
Palin’s PAC treasurer, Tim Crawford, told Politico that the rumors of Palin holding a grudge against Bachmann are “not true whatsoever,” pointing out that “Michele was the first person Sarah campaigned for in the 2010 cycle.”
As for Bachmann, she’s fine with Palin. Two people close to her tell Politico that she expresses as much affection for Palin in private as she does in public. But they say Bachmann has never called the two close.
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When CBS asked Bachmann last month whether she had consulted with Palin about running for president, Bachmann said that would be great, but said jokingly, “I don’t have her cellphone number.”
One thing is for sure: Palin's and Bachmann’s aides are going at it.
Rollins went on Tuesday to slam Palin. “Michele Bachmann and others [have] worked hard,” he said. “She has been a leader of the Tea Party which is a very important element here, she has been an attorney, she has done important things with family values.”
Rollins reiterated those thoughts in an interview with Politico. Bachmann will “be so much more substantive,” he said. “People are going to say, ‘I gotta make a choice and go with the intelligent woman who’s every bit as attractive.’ ”
Then on Wednesday, Palin’s chief of staff, Michael Glassner, fought back. “Beltway political strategist Ed Rollins has a long, long track record of taking high profile jobs and promptly sticking his foot in his mouth,” he said in a statement.
"To no one's surprise he has done it again, while also fueling a contrived narrative about the presidential race by the mainstream media. One would expect that his woodshed moment is coming and that a retraction will be issued soon."
In an interview on CNN Wednesday, Rollins didn’t apologize, but he did soften his words a bit. “I don’t think Palin runs, and if she does, we will deal with it,” he said. “There obviously is a trend in the media to link them. In the long run we want Palin and her people as our allies.”
Bachmann may gain an advantage in distancing herself from Palin, but it could instead be a blunder, given Palin’s strong popularity with conservatives. The Minnesotan will certainly seek the Alaskan’s endorsement if Palin decides not to run.
Some political heavies say Rollins’ comments were a mistake. “I think it is ill advised,” said Republican strategist Curt Anderson. He suggests that Rollins may just have been speaking off the top of his head rather than executing a planned strategy. “Why would you attack a barracuda?”
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