Rep. Michele Bachmann lost her campaign manager and another key aide Monday at a crucial moment, as polls show her slipping with the entry of fellow conservative, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, into the Republican presidential race.
Veteran GOP strategist Ed Rollins, 68, said he was stepping back from his day-to-day role running the Bachmann effort. He has had health problems and said he can't withstand any more. David Polyansky, the deputy campaign manager, quit altogether.
The Bachmann campaign portrayed it as a planned restructuring and announced that strategist Keith Nahigian, who was instrumental in her win at the Ames straw poll last month, would be interim campaign manager.
As a member of Congress, Bachmann has been known for high staff turnover, but both the departees said they wish her nothing but the best, and Rollins will continue as a senior advisor.
Bachmann's support has deflated somewhat in recent polls, even in Iowa, where she is strongest, as tea party conservatives migrate toward Perry. A Sept. 1 Fox News survey found Perry leading the field, with 26 percent, followed by Mitt Romney with 18 percent. Sarah Palin had 8 percent, Texas Rep. Ron Paul had 7 percent, and Bachmann had 4 percent.
"Legitimately, it's a Romney-Perry race," Rollins said in an interview with CNN. "I think she's the third candidate at this point in time, which is way different and better than we thought when we started this thing. She's very much in this thing."
He said that Bachmann's performances in a string of debates this month, beginning Wednesday, will be important in determining her fate.