September 30, 2014

Bachmann backer switches to Paul; Gingrich accused of polygamy (audio)

There were some bizarre twists and turns in the Republican presidential race in Iowa tonight as a key Michele Bachmann backer announced he’s now supporting a different candidate and a caller on a telephone town hall meeting suggested Newt Gingrich is a polygamist.

Earlier today state Senator Kent Sorenson stood with Michele Bachmann as she held an event in his hometown of Indianola, but tonight Sorenson stood on a stage in Des Moines to make the surprise announcement that he’s supporting Ron Paul now.

“Tonight’s a little tough for me. I’ve been serving as Michele Bachmann’s state chair over the last year and while Michele has fought tremendously for my conservative values, I believe we’re at a turning point in this campaign,” Sorenson said. “…When the Republican establishment is going to be coming against him over the next few days, I thought it was my duty to come to his aid.”

Listen to Sorenson’s brief remarks here.

Last week Sorenson had suggested he would burn fellow Iowa conservative Bob Vander Plaats in effigy because Vander Plaats had endorsed GOP candidate Rick Santorum rather than Bachmann. Sorenson’s now ready to fight on Paul’s behalf.

“Just like (Paul) came to my aid in my senate race, which was a very nasty race,” Sorenson said.

Sorenson won his state senate seat in 2010, defeating the wife of an Iowa Supreme Court justice in the most expensive state legislative race of the year. Paul appeared at two campaign fundraisers for Sorenson.

Tonight, Bachmann spoke with reporters following her Iowa bus tour and accused the Paul campaign of offering Sorenson money. She went so far as to say Sorenson told her, “Everyone in Iowa sells out. Why shouldn’t I?”

The Paul campaign denies the charge.

“We’ve always known Michele Bachmann to be an honorable person and we think it’s a shame now that she’s trying to slander an honorable Iowan and an honorable member of the Iowa state senate. Senator Sorenson is not being paid,” Jesse Benton, Paul’s campaign spokesman, told Radio Iowa this evening. “He has joined our campaign because he realizes that this is a two-man race and Ron is the only conservative who can beat Mitt Romney and the establishment status quo.”

Earlier in the evening, during a telephone town hall meeting organized by Newt Gingrich’s campaign, a caller brought up Gingrich’s two divorces and current marriage to Callista.

“Jesus very specifically states in the Bible that divorced people are really still married, which I think technically means now that you’re a polygamist and I’m wondering what you’ll do to legalize polygamy in U.S. if you were to be elected president,” the man said to Gingrich.

Gingrich called it a “fairly unusual question” and then offered the following response: “Having a gone through annulment under the procedures of the Catholic Church, I don’t meet the standards you just described, but I appreciate the question. It’s certainly an unusual one and I can assure you that I believe marriage is between a man and a woman and that I would oppose any effort to legalize polygamy. But that’s certainly a creative question on your part and I look forward to the next question.”

Listen to the exchange here.

Seven “Occupy the Caucus” protesters were arrested today at Mitt Romney’s campaign headquarters in Des Moines.  Organizers also announced the Reverend Jesse Jackson plans to be in Des Moines Thursday night to speak with the protesters at their temporary headquarters in a vacant office building that’s a few blocks away from the state capitol.

(This story was updated at 11:35 p.m. with additional information.)