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WASHINGTON - Several high-profile members of Michele Bachmann's New Hampshire staff, including her state campaign manager, have quit, according to multiple reports.
The Minnesota Republican and her top aides on Friday denied the departures, but her former New Hampshire campaign manager said publicly that he had left, citing disappointment in her presidential campaign's inattention to the early voting state.
Meanwhile, Rick Perry's campaign confirmed Friday that it had hired a field director away from Bachmann.
The departures are the latest in a string of high-profile exits from Bachmann's camp and come amid sagging poll numbers and disappointing fundraising.
New Hampshire TV station WMUR first reported Friday that five of Bachmann's staffers quit this week.
Former Bachmann state campaign manager Jeff Chidester, a talk-radio host who was with Bachmann's campaign early on, told the Manchester Union Leader that he and three other staffers had quit. Aide Caroline Gilger is moving to the New Hampshire campaign of Texas Gov. Perry next week, Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier confirmed to the Star Tribune.
Bachmann suggested in an interview Friday with Radio Iowa that the reports of the New Hampshire defections might have been a "bad story that's being fed by a different candidate or campaign."
"That is a shocking story to me," she said. "I have no idea where this came from, but we've made calls and it's certainly not true."
Early Friday evening, Bachmann's campaign manager, Keith Nahigian, said in a statement: "We have a great team in New Hampshire and we have not been notified that anyone is leaving the campaign."
The reported exodus highlights a problem that's long plagued the Minnesota Republican. Bachmann got into a public quarrel with her former campaign manager, Ed Rollins, who resigned in September, in which both said they should have "Googled" the other before partnering up.
In addition to Rollins, deputy campaign manager David Polyansky, pollster Ed Goeas and spokesman Doug Sachtleben have left Bachmann's staff over the past two months.
"You get a sense that there's a lot of sloppiness in the Bachmann campaign, a lot of inconsistency, and this is just one more sign of that," said Dante Scala, professor at University of New Hampshire political science department and an expert on primary politics.
The frustration reported among Bachmann's New Hampshire staffers stems from the campaign's focus on Iowa.
But Bachmann has slipped in the Iowa polls since she won the Ames Straw Poll in August. She has averaged 8.4 percent in Iowa polls this month, according to a Real Clear Politics average.
Bachmann also has struggled with fundraising, burning through $6 million the past quarter while raising $4.1 million. Bachmann paid the five New Hampshire staffers $55,000 in combined salary in the past three months, according to federal election records.
Scala said that the campaign is now betting it all on Iowa. "They basically boiled down, or melted down, to a one-state-or-out strategy, and that state is Iowa," Scala said. "It begs the question, 'Why have staff on the ground in New Hampshire if you're just going to neglect them?' "
Jeremy Herb • 202-408-2723 Twitter: @StribHerb