It appears Michele Bachmann may not be as well steeped in Tea Party support as we thought. Ned Ryun, president of the Tea Party group American Majority, posted this blunt critique on the group's blog yesterday:
It's time for Michele Bachmann to go. For the last two years, I've been cautioning about the dangers of individuals or organizations trying to present themselves as leaders of the Tea Party movement. An individual personality or organization purporting to be a "leader" of what is truly a grassroots movement can hurt the Tea Party brand by creating false impressions about its core beliefs. Bachmann, the leader of the so-called Tea Party caucus in the House and the most vocal about her affiliation with the Tea Party than any other Presidential candidate, has consistently presented herself as a champion of the movement and its values. Bachmann has ridden her Tea Party credentials from obscurity to a national platform like no other.
Bachmann has positioned herself as a leader in the Tea Party movement since she founded the Tea Party caucus in the House in July 2010. At the time, it had 52 members. After Republicans gained 63 House seats and reclaimed the majority last November — with heaps of Tea Party support — the caucus grew by just 8 members.
Bachmann also delivered the infamous three-quarter profile Tea Party response to the 2011 State of the Union.
Ryun didn't save all of his criticism for Bachmann's "purported" leadership role in the anti-establishment Tea Party. He also said Bachmann's campaign is more about her desire to stay in the spotlight and sell books than championing Tea Party values — like limited government and fiscal responsibility. (Bachmann has a memoir due out Nov. 21.)
The Bachmann campaign released this statement from campaign manager Keith Nahigian to NPR:
The strength of the Tea Party is all individual's (sic) opinions are valued but the no single leader speaks for it. Mr. Ryun, who supports Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is entitled to his own opinion. And that's exactly what he is expressing. Michele Bachmann enjoys strong support from Americans across party lines and that certainly includes the Tea Party. She will continue to be a strong advocate for the values and principles reflected by the Tea Party as works toward a victory in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses as she seeks to win the Republican nomination.
Iowa is seen as a must-win for Bachmann to keep her campaign alive. She's currently polling there in single digits. But yesterday the campaign increased its Iowa staff to 10, including Eric Woolson — an Iowa political veteran who's now serving as Bachmann's state campaign manager.
Woolson previously led Bachmann's communications effort in the state. He did the same for Tim Pawlenty before the former Minnesota governor dropped out of the race after finishing a distant third to Bachmann in Iowa's Ames Straw Poll in August. Bachmann's victory there may prove to have been the peak of her 2012 run.
Updated 1:15 p.m.
In response to the statement from Keith Nahigian, Ned Ryun told CNN that neither he nor American Majority have endorsed Rick Perry or any of the other candidates.