New Hampshire Staff Exodus Augurs End Times for Bachmann Campaign

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Jeff Chiu / AP

Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., speaks at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Oct. 20, 2011.

Michele Bachmann’s campaign staff in New Hampshire has quit en masse, frustrated by the Minnesota Congressman’s inattention to the state.

The exodus, first reported by WMUR’s James Pindell, marks the nadir of Bachmann’s free-fall since capturing the Iowa straw poll in August. While an embarrassing development, the defections may also have been inevitable. Bachmann has pinned her presidential hopes on winning Iowa, the state where she was born and where her message best meshes with the makeup of the electorate. But zeroing in on Iowa and its heavily Evangelical caucus-goers, coupled with her invisibility in the first-in-the-nation primary state, amounted to a tacit concession in New Hampshire. 

Bachmann’s camp swatted down reports of the exits. “That is a shocking story to me. I don’t know where that came from,” Bachmann said after calling into an Iowa radio station. (Audio here.)Asked if any staff had quit, she said, “Not to our knowledge.” Her spokeswoman, Alice Stewart, didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry from TIME. But one of the staffers, Jeff Chidester, confirmed to New Hampshire’s Union-Leader that he and at least three other staffers had left the campaign. One of those staffers has already signed on as a field representative for Rick Perry, according to multiple reports.

Before Bachmann’s four-day swing through the Granite State earlier this month, which dovetailed with the presidential debate at Dartmouth College, she’d visited New Hampshire just once since June. The absence damaged her already fragile standing in a state that expects serious contenders to visit regularly. Over the summer, as her nascent Tea Party-fueled candidacy drew notice, Bachmann regularly polled in double-digits in New Hampshire. In a RealClearPolitics average of recent polls in the state, she’s notched less than 4%, good for just seventh place in the state.

The departures are the latest in a long string for Bachmann, whose struggles to retain congressional staff have carried over into her bid for the Republican nomination. Citing fatigue, Bachmann’s former presidential campaign manager, Ed Rollins, jumped ship along with his top deputy just months after signing on. Rollins left a trial of carnage in his wake, declaring that Bachmann lacked the “resources and ability” to compete beyond Iowa. More recently, Bachmann lost veteran pollster Ed Goeas. For her Granite State staff, there must have seemed little reason to go on fighting.

Updated, 3:55 P.M.