INDIANOLA, Iowa (The Blaze/AP) — Michele Bachmann’s struggling presidential campaign saw her Iowa chairman defect Wednesday to rival Ron Paul’s side, an embarrassing blow that came as some called for her to leave the race to free up her supporters for other candidates.
Hours after appearing with Bachmann at an event, state Sen. Kent Sorenson gave his endorsement to the Texas congressman at a Des Moines rally. Sorenson said he resigned from Bachmann’s campaign to back Paul, whom he called the most conservative of the top-tier candidates.
In a harsh statement, Bachmann said Sorenson made the jump after “he was offered a large sum of money to go to work for the Paul campaign.”
“Kent said to me yesterday that `everyone sells out in Iowa, why shouldn’t I,’” she said in a written statement. “Then he told me he would stay with our campaign. The Ron Paul campaign has to answer for its actions.”
Sorenson announced the switch during a Paul veterans rally in Des Moines. He didn’t immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press to address Bachmann’s charges that the move was financially based.
(via O. Kay Henderson)
“The fact is, there is a clear top tier in the race for the Republican nomination for president, both here in Iowa and nationally. Ron Paul is easily the most conservative of this group,” Sorenson said in a statement. “The truth is, it was an excruciatingly difficult decision for me to decide between supporting Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul at the beginning of this campaign.”
Bachmann has been on a frantic 99-county push across Iowa in an effort to recover from the slide that followed her Iowa straw poll victory in August. Paul was a close second in that contest.
Earlier in the day, two influential pastors said they wanted either her or former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum to drop out of the running to keep evangelical voters from splitting their support. Bachmann insisted she would see the Iowa caucus campaign through.
Sorenson, who has strong ties to Iowa’s tea party, was one of Bachmann’s earliest public supporters and joined her for an afternoon stop at a Pizza Ranch restaurant in Indianola. Standing by her side, he declined to speak to the crowd there, citing numbness from dental work.
He announced his switch to Paul at the rally just hours later.
“When the Republican establishment is going to be coming against him [Paul] over the next few days, I thought it is my duty to come to his aid,” Sorenson told the crowd.
According to the Des Moines Register, Sorenson said he didn’t make the final decision to switch camps until Wednesday evening.
He told the newspaper he drove to Paul’s 7 p.m. event, called a Paul staffer and asked, “Do you guys want me on board?”
“[The staffer] walked out to the parking lot and then I walked in with him,” Sorenson said.
State Sen. Brad Zaun, who had been Bachmann’s Iowa co-chairman, was named full chairman after Sorenson’s resignation.