WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Staff members in New Hampshire for Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann have resigned en masse, a Republican familiar with the situation said on Friday, in a fresh blow to her 2012 hopes.
The Republican had few details, but news reports in New Hampshire said the resignations included her New Hampshire campaign manager, Jeff Chidester.
Bachmann, campaigning in Iowa, sowed some confusion by saying she was unaware of the resignations.
Manchester’s Union Leader newspaper said Chidester, a conservative activist and radio talk show host, left due to frustration with Bachmann’s national campaign, not with the candidate herself.
Bachmann has focused much of her efforts on Iowa, whose January 3 caucuses are the first U.S. nominating contest of the 2012 election cycle. Bachmann’s conservative message has a greater chance of achieving a breakthrough in Iowa, where social conservatives are a dominant voice.
Chidester also told the newspaper at least three other staffers — Tom Lukacz, Nicole Yurek and Caroline Gigler — had left with the same frustrations.
He said he did not have direct knowledge of whether of Matt LeDuc had also left, as has been reported.
Gigler quickly signed up with the presidential campaign of Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Perry spokeswoman said.
Bachmann told Radio Iowa she was unaware of the resignations and questioned the news reports.
“We’re trying to call everyone and find out if there’s any truth to the story. Everyone that we’ve gotten ahold of has said that they were shocked as well,” she said.
“There’s no truth to that story, so this is a rumor and I think it’s highly reprehensible for the media to publish a story without calling us,” Bachmann said.
Bachmann campaign manager Keith Nahigian said the campaign had not been notified of anyone in New Hampshire leaving the team, but made clear Iowa was her top priority.
“We look forward to spending more time in the Granite State between now and the primary, but our campaign has emphasized that our main focus is the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa and we are continuing to build efforts there,” he said.
Bachmann has been on a slow fade since winning the Iowa straw poll of Republican voters in August. She has only been registering single digits in polls of New Hampshire Republican voters. In Iowa, she has been in fourth place in the polls behind Herman Cain, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.
The head of the Tea Party caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, Bachmann has been faltering amid weak debate performances and the departure of key staff members.
She raised roughly $4 million in campaign funds in the third quarter and spent nearly $6 million. She has roughly $1.3 million cash on hand.
“It certainly underscores the impression that New Hampshire isn’t a priority for her. She’s totally written us off,” said former Republican state legislator Fran Wendelboe.
Reporting by Steve Holland, additional reporting by Todd Melby; editing by Todd Eastham