Michele Bachmann Says Ron Paul Paid Key Iowa Staffer to Switch

Bachmann says panicky Ron Paul campaign paid key Iowa supporter to jump ship.

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Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann has been furiously courting Iowa voters for months, touting her conservative credentials, her surprise straw poll win in the state earlier in the year, and grassroots support. She's also recently taken aim at surging rival Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who is running near the top of recent polls in the Hawkeye state, for what she calls his "dangerous" hands-off foreign policy positions.

Though if what happened on Wednesday night is any measure of her success, she's losing ground at just the wrong time.

Just days away from the first-in-the-nation Iowa GOP caucus, Bachmann's longtime state campaign chair, state Sen. Kent Sorenson, left her camp for rival Paul's.

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But Bachmann asserted Thursday morning on Jan Mickelson's WHO-AM radio show in Des Moines that there is more to the story.

"The Ron Paul campaign had contacted one of the people on our campaign and had offered them money to come to their campaign and he went. Pure and simple, that's what it was," she said, adding that Sorenson told her it was "a great deal of money" and he "had to provide for his family."

Bachmann, who launched a statewide tour following a recent debate in which she attacked Paul for his position on dealing with Iran, said the impact of the debate was obvious.

"After that debate, it was almost like an electric light switch went off across Iowa," she said. "We had more people come to our meetings than ever before, huge momentum. People were saying, 'I'm switching to you' for the person I am supporting for president, not Ron Paul."

That, she says, has led Paul's campaign to panic and ramp up overtures to her top-level supporters.

"That's what led to this disruption in our campaign, where the calls were made and they hired somebody away," she said.

The Paul campaign has denied that it paid Sorenson to switch camps.

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Sorensen, in a written statement issued to the Associated Press, called Paul "easily the most conservative of the group.

"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," he wrote in the statement.

Recent polling shows former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Paul vying for front-runner status, followed by former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Bachmann, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

E-mail: rmetzler@usnews.com

Twitter: @rebekahmetzler