Michele Bachmann’s campaign on Friday struck back at a tea party affiliated group that called on the Minnesota congresswoman to end her presidential run, with the candidate herself suggesting that rival candidate Rick Perry might be behind the ambush.
“People have told us, that these are Perry supporters and they went out with this and this was meant to be a stealth move and it was clumsy,” Bachmann said on CNN’s The Situation Room. “If Governor Perry has something to stay to me, he can come out to the debates and he can say it.”
In an emailed response to CBS News and The National Journal, Perry spokesman Mark Miner denied that the Texas governor’s camp had anything to do with the call for Bachmann to quit, published on the blog of thetea party group American Majority.
“We learned about this through media reports today and had nothing to do with the group’s decision,” Miner said.
Bachmann, who founded of the Congressional Tea Party caucus, has long tied herself to the movement – even delivering a tea party response to President Obama’s State of the Union address this year without the sanction of her party’s House leadership. But Tea Party activists are notoriously suspicious of politicians’ attempts to assert leadership over the movement or to speak for them.
To validate Bachmann’s assertion that she’s “had nonstop support, coming out of the woodwork” from tea party activists, the congresswoman’s campaign directed a reporter to Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, which has over 3000 voluntarily affiliated tea party groups around the country.
Martin told CBS/National Journal that she was unaware if American Majority’s statement was speaking on behalf of a larger group of tea party affiliates, but said that she had not heard similar sentiments.
“I haven’t heard from local groups around the country anyone calling for Michele Bachmann to drop out of the race,” Martin said, adding “I haven’t even heard from local groups around the country the call for anyone to drop out of the race.”
Martin was quick to point out that many of the local tea party organizations she works with had specifically asked that group leaders not make endorsements or statements about candidates. “They don’t want one person – like me, for instance, speaking on their behalf.”
Similarly, Martin predicted, the movement’s grassroots activists can’t automatically be assumed to support a statement telling a candidate to exit the race. She emphasized the movement’s diversity. “I live in Georgia. They don’t need me coming into Iowa telling them who to vote for. They can make up their own mind,” Martin said. “They know what’s best for their own state. Kind of like we don’t want the federal government telling us what to do with every single decision we make.”
Rebecca Kaplan contributed contributed to this article.