Days after Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) snagged Ed Rollins as her presidential campaign manager, the high-profile strategist is engaged in a war of words with advisers to former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
The spat began yesterday, when Rollins disparaged Palin in a radio interview. “Sarah has not been serious over the last couple of years,” Rollins said. “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.”
Rollins belabored the point in an interview with Politico. Bachmann will “be so much more substantive ... People are going to say, ‘I gotta make a choice and go with the intelligent woman who’s every bit as attractive.’”
Today Michael Glassner, Palin’s chief of staff, responded with a statement of his own: “Beltway political strategist Ed Rollins has a long, long track record of taking high profile jobs and promptly sticking his foot in his mouth.”
It’s a sign that Palin’s team is no longer willing to sit idly by while other Republicans take digs at their boss. That shift could signal the beginning of an ugly war between the high-profile former vice presidential nominee and lesser-known rivals.
Rollins is known for his tendency toward brutal honesty. He told CNN today that he need to adjust from “being a political analyst back to being a strategist.”
“I don't think Palin runs, and if she does we will deal with it. There obviously is a trend in the media to link them,” he added. “In the long run we want Palin and her people as our allies.”
Bachmann is in a position to sell herself as the smart, serious alternative to Palin by increasing her focus on policy and process. But there’s a difference between subtly making that contrast and taking jabs in the national press. Bachmann has campaigned with Palin and said she considers the former governor a friend.
As Rollins suggested, the two GOP stars have overlapping bases, and Bachmann will want to bring Palin supporters to her side. Starting a war with the Palin campaign isn’t the best way to start.