Monday evening Rep. Michele Bachmann’s press secretary sent out an e-mail:
Fresh off her Iowa Straw Poll win, Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann announced today the Team Bachmann campaign is executing a planned restructuring strategy and expanding its focus on winning the Iowa Caucuses and early primary states. Due to health reasons, Ed Rollins will move from his demanding role as Campaign Manager to Senior Advisor.
“In less than 50 days and with fewer resources than other campaigns, Ed was the architect that led our campaign to a historic victory in Iowa,” Bachmann said. “I am grateful for his guidance and leadership, and fortunate to retain his valuable advice even though his health no longer permits him to oversee the day-to-day operations of the campaign.”
As part of the restructuring strategy, current campaign strategist Keith Nahigian will assume the role of interim Campaign Manager.
“Keith has played a vital role in the success we have had to date and I’m confident he can lead us to a strong finish in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and across the country,” Bachmann said.
There was general skepticism that Rollins was leaving due to health issues. Indeed, it was a bit of a mystery why the quintessential Beltway insider would run an insurgent’s campaign. But he and his deputy, who was not mentioned in the e-mail, are gone.
A Bachmann staffer told me after the announcement: “Keith has been with the campaign since June, working with the candidate day-to-day in getting her message out. She has come to rely a great deal on his experience and his skill in managing the myriad of details that occur on the campaign trail.”
It remains to be seen, however, whether he has the chops to run an entire campaign. He was essentially an outside consultant whose firm was a vendor for the campaign. That is quite a leap to campaign manager.
There are a couple of noteworthy items. First, Nahigian was the advance man for then-Vice President Dan Quayle and was in charge of the event where the infamous “potatoe” event occurred. He’s presumably improved his attention to detail in the intervening years.
More seriously, a legitimate concern about Bachmann’s executive skills is the rate at which she has burned through staff. Congress is a tough place to work, but her office stands out for its turnover. Is she just a tough boss or an unreasonable one? Is she able to attract good talent and earn their loyalty? These are hard to measure, but important questions in assessing a candidate’s management abilities.
For now, however, Bachmann has the chance for a jump-start. She turned in a strong debate performance. If she can follow that up with more solid debate outings and land some blows on her chief rival in Iowa and South Carolina, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, she can get back in the game. She doesn’t have much time to get it right.