Kent Sorenson’s defection to Ron Paul after being Michele Bachmann’s Iowa State Chair six days out from the Iowa Caucus is the worst example of raw politics I’ve seen yet this cycle. I’m disappointed, and I’m not even a Bachmann supporter. Sorenson in his statement released last night said:
I still maintain an immense amount of respect for Michele. The reasons are many. She’s never betrayed conservatives on issues like taxes, the Right to Life, and the Second Amendment. So over the past few months, I have been saddened at the dismissive way she’s been treated among some conservatives especially after winning the Iowa Straw Poll.
But 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.
Congresswoman Bachmann added to this rationale in a statement she gave late last night:
Kent Sorenson personally told me he was offered a large sum of money to go to work for the Paul campaign. Kent campaigned with us earlier this afternoon and went immediately afterward to a Ron Paul event and announced he is changing teams. 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. The Ron Paul campaign has to answer for its actions.
She says Kent Sorenson was paid to switch sides, and he at least admits to doing so because Paul is in the “top tier.” Sorenson’s decision, which he says came 10 minutes before going up on stage at Paul’s event last night (which I don’t believe for a second) wasn’t exactly a principled decision regardless of how you slice it.
For all of the talk of principles we hear from the Paul Campaign and from Kent Sorenson in the last few years up at the State House; what we witnessed last night had nothing to do with principles – it was all politics. The principled thing for Sorenson to do would have been to see his commitment through to the end. At the very least he could have quietly resigned and changed his vote, but there is nothing principled about publicly defecting from your candidate, especially when you are the state chair, six days out from the Caucus. If Bachmann’s campaign ends next week there would have been time to join Paul’s campaign as it moves forward.
I don’t know how much this will help Paul. I would suspect not much. What Sorenson did manage to do however is fatally wound the Bachmann campaign and damage his own credibility in the process.
Update: Here is a statement that Paul’s campaign sent out last night that I missed. Wes Enos, Bachmann’s Iowa Political Director said that there was no financial motivation:
I won’t say much about the situation or the conflicting statements beyond this; I can say unequivocally that Kent Sorenson’s decision was, in no way financially motivated. His decision had more to do with the fact that the Ron Paul supporters have been something of a family to him since he was first elected in 2008 and here in the end, as it becomes more and more apparent that the caucus cycle is coming to an end, Kent believed that he needed to be with them as they stand on the cusp of a potential caucus upset. While I personally disagree with Kent’s decision, and plan to stay with Michele Bachmann because I truly believe in her, I cannot, in good conscious watch a good man like Kent Sorenson be attacked as a ‘sell-out’ ….That is simply not the case, and it was not the basis of his decision.
This doesn’t change my position. Sorenson’s own statement said he was supporting Paul because he’s a top tier candidate and because of the support Paul showed him when he was running for office (shouldn’t that have factored in months ago?). I like Wes, but other than what Kent told him what first hand knowledge would he have of any contractual agreement made between Sorenson and Paul. His decision may not have been based on financial considerations – I think they were made based on wanting to join the winning team – that doesn’t mean he didn’t get paid.
2nd Update: And the plot thickens, from NY Daily News:
Susan Geddes, a veteran operative in conservative GOP political circles who managed Sorenson’s 2008 and 2010 legislative races, said Sorenson had told her several times, as recently as last month, that the Paul campaign had offered him money to leave Bachmann’s campaign for the Texas congressman’s.
Geddes said Sorenson had damaged his political future in Iowa by abandoning Bachmann’s campaign less than a week before the caucuses.
"He just committed political suicide," she said.
So like I said between Sorenson and Bachmann we have a “he said, she said” situation. Based on Sorenson’s actions, Bachmann has more credibility. The Paul campaign says they’re not paying him as well, but they are the ones whom Paul Campaign Political Director, Jesse Benton says, “were speaking to him in earnest.” Luring a state chair away from another campaign, doesn’t exactly earn you high marks in my book.
Stacy McCain makes an astute point on this, “Sorenson’s defection may have served the purpose of signaling to evangelicals in Iowa that, given the choice between Santorum and Bachmann, hers is the weaker of the two campaigns.” Very true.