(AFP) – Dec 29, 2011
DES MOINES, Iowa — Michele Bachmann's struggling White House bid has been dealt a major blow ahead of the first Republican nominating contest with the defection of her Iowa campaign manager to rival Ron Paul.
Kent Sorenson made the switch after attending a Wednesday campaign event for Bachmann, who bristled sharply at the defection and demanded accountability from Paul's campaign.
Republicans vying for the presidential nomination are criss-crossing the US heartland state this week ahead of the January 3 Iowa caucuses, which are the first real test of the field and can kill off or boost a campaign.
The staunchly libertarian Paul, a Texas congressman, has hovered at the top of most voter surveys, while support for Bachmann has tumbled after she won an early straw poll in the state in August.
Paul's Iowa campaign chairman Drew Ivers confirmed the switch by Sorenson, an Iowa state senator.
"We just appreciate his support and believe that he has made a good choice and that Ron Paul is the best candidate that the Republican Party can nominate because he has the best chance of beating Obama in November," Ivers told AFP.
In a statement Sorenson said his decision was "one of the most difficult I have made in my life. But given what's at stake for our country, I have decided I must take this action."
Sorenson was more blunt in front of reporters.
Bachmann, a congresswoman from Minnesota, "is not in the top tier," he said on Iowa television. "She is not in the position to beat Mitt Romney. We are."
At a rally in Des Moines, according to the Des Moines Register, Sorenson said "We're going to take Ron Paul all the way to the White House."
Bachmann struck back, saying Sorenson defected because he was bought by the Paul campaign.
"Kent Sorenson personally told me he was offered a large sum of money to go to work for the Paul campaign," Bachmann told reporters on Wednesday.
"Kent said to me yesterday that 'Everyone sells out in Iowa, why shouldn't I?' Then he told me he would stay with our campaign," she said.
After attending a Bachmann event, Sorenson "went immediately afterward to a Ron Paul event and announced he is changing teams," Bachmann added.
Bachmann has sharpened her attacks on Paul in recent weeks as the two battle for the support of social conservatives, who have a major influence on Iowa politics.
On Wednesday she told Fox News that Paul would be "dangerous as a president because of his foreign policy."
Paul, who is largely opposed to foreign aid and interventions and has been under fire for his stances on national security, Iran and Israel.
Romney is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, ahead of former House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich, whose support in Iowa and second-state-to-vote New Hampshire has fallen sharply in recent days.
The eventual winner of the state-by-state primary voting process earns the right to take on President Barack Obama for the White House in the general election in November 2012.
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