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Palin-Bachmann Rancor Heats Up Below the Surface

Palin-Bachmann Rancor Heats Up Below the Surface

By Scott Conroy - August 13, 2011


DES MOINES, Iowa -- "I like Sarah Palin a lot," Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann said at Thursday night's Republican presidential debate. "We are very good friends."

Bachmann's charitable words were the latest in a long line of glowing public comments that the two potential Republican rivals have showered upon each other since 2008.

But a personal relationship between the conservative female leaders has, in fact, been nonexistent for the past 16 months, as aides from Bachmann’s camps have privately -- and sometimes publicly -- disparaged Palin to an extent that has caused growing exasperation in Palin world. That behind-the-scenes rancor is now boiling over as the former Alaska governor inches closer to a presidential run.

Some of the volunteers who have been organizing here in the nation’s first voting state for a potential Palin campaign have been particularly miffed by what they describe as a concerted effort from the Bachmann camp to spread rumors that Palin has already decided not to run and will eventually endorse the Minnesotan.

“It is so pervasive and so continuous that it can’t be rogue people doing it without the understanding and encouragement from the candidate herself,” a Palin supporter in Iowa told RCP. “The entire Bachmann team has gone around the state saying Palin is a lightweight and a quitter and saying that Sarah’s about to endorse Michele. Bachmann’s campaign is radioactively dirty. They are shameless.”

In May, Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson -- who went on to become Bachmann’s point person here -- told Politico that Palin “doesn’t seem like a credible candidate.” And in some of his first public comments in June as Bachmann’s soon-to-be campaign manager, Ed Rollins told The Daily Caller that Palin “has not been serious over the last couple of years.”

“She got the vice-presidential thing handed to her,” Rollins said. “She didn’t go to work in the sense of trying gain more substance. She gave up her governorship.”

Sorenson and a Bachmann spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

The Bachmann aides’ public disparagement of Palin did nothing to rebuild a personal relationship between the two women that has soured since Palin campaigned for Bachmann in Minnesota in April 2010.

But according to well-placed sources, it was Bachmann’s assertion during Thursday night’s debate that she was “very good friends” with Palin that ignited a fire in Palin world.

“To say that they’re good buddies -- what is a good buddy?” a Palin-affiliated source said. “You can’t use that to try to get her supporters.”

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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