The Hawkeye heat is really on now for Michele Bachmann.
New Hampshire ABC affiliate WMUR reported today that the presidential candidate's entire paid campaign staff in New Hampshire resigned en masse over "deep frustration with the campaign's lack of commitment" to that state.
The Minnesota congresswoman has in recent months focused most of her efforts on winning the January 3 Iowa caucus. Bachmann won the Ames Straw Poll in that state in August—an event that was arguably the high point of her campaign. Since then, she has fallen in the polls, both in Iowa and nationwide. According to a Real Clear Politics average of polling data, Bachmann currently has the support of 9.5 percent of Iowa voters, putting her behind Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and businessman Herman Cain.
Losing her campaign operations in New Hampshire may not itself deliver a crippling blow to Bachmann; she is at the bottom of the polls in that state. But it's another tough break for an already troubled campaign. "It's piled on top of other bad news for her that's been pretty consistent for months. She had her moment, and it's probably gone for this campaign," says Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
Indeed, Bachmann has also been beleaguered by sluggish fundraising, forcing her campaign to far outspend its total receipts last quarter. In addition, since her Ames Straw Poll win, she has found herself overshadowed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and now Cain.
Her last and best hope likely now lies in gaining as much traction as possible in Iowa, as well as South Carolina, where Bachmann has sought the endorsement of Gov. Nikki Haley. South Carolina is another early primary state, so if she can hang on until the end of January, Bachmann might still have a glimmer of hope. But it will be a tough slog, says Sabato: "She's been marginalized, and I don't know how she climbs out of that."
UPDATE: Jeff Chidester, Michele Bachmann's New Hampshire campaign manager, confirmed to the New York Times this afternoon that he is leaving the candidate's campaign. Earlier today, the Bachmann campaign denied reports that the New Hampshire campaign staff had quit en masse. "That is a shocking story to me," Bachmann told Radio Iowa's O. Kay Henderson today. "I don't know where that came from. We have called staff in New Hampshire to find out where that came from and the staff have said that isn't true, so I don't know if this is just a bad story that's being fed by a different candidate or campaign. I have no idea where this came from, but we've made calls and it's certainly not true." Bachmann's national campaign manager, Keith Nahigian, also denied the reports. U.S. News has received no response to inquiries to the Bachmann campaign.
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Updated on 10/21/11 at 5:41 p.m. ET