Carson camp brings on former Bachmann staffer in Iowa

Story highlights

  • Ryan Rhodes, who served as Bachmann's tea party outreach director in Iowa, has joined a pro-Ben Carson group
  • Rhodes tells CNN he'll help introduce Carson to potential supporters in the state
  • Carson would need a strong finish in Iowa to remain competitive in the 2016 GOP primary

Washington (CNN)A key staffer for former Rep. Michele Bachmann's ill-fated 2012 presidential campaign in Iowa has signed on to retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson's developing shadow campaign.

Ryan Rhodes, who served as Bachmann's tea party outreach director in the state, told CNN in an interview he's joining the American Legacy Center, a conservative policy group that would likely form the basis for a Carson campaign if he decides to run.
"Iowa's obviously very important as it goes on the national stage and as it relates to the presidential. That's where the action is," Rhodes said.
    Rhodes said in his new role for the group he would be connecting Carson with activists when the retired neurosurgeon visits the key early-caucus state, and spreading Carson's message to potential supporters there.
    "As [Carson's] preparing to make his decision, we're going to be out here advocating for the issues that are important to him," he said.
    "Everybody is looking for the candidates to come through. A lot of people don't really make their decision until after they've gotten to talk to the candidates."
    Carson talks running for President
    Carson talks running for President


      Carson talks running for President


    Carson talks running for President 01:14
    Rhodes told Real Clear Politics, which first reported the news of his hiring, that he was contacted by multiple potential presidential contenders and chose to go with Carson because "he is the embodiment of the American dream and there's no better person to advocate restoring the American dream than Ben."
    The tea party activist endorsed Bachmann shortly before her unexpected win of the Ames Straw Poll in 2011, and later joined her campaign. Bachmann, however, ultimately came in sixth in the 2012 Iowa caucuses, a finish that doomed her candidacy early on.
    But Rhodes remains a prominent figure in conservative circles in the state, and his hiring by a group linked to Carson suggests the rising conservative star is getting serious about a potential run.
    A strong finish in this year's Ames Straw Poll could put Carson on the map in the race, much as it did for Bachmann.
    And his growing following has forced establishment Republicans to get serious about him. Carson polled third in a CNN/ORC survey of the potential presidential field conducted late last month, and was invited to speak at the Republican National Committee's winter meeting this week.
    While there, however, he displayed the very penchant for off-the-cuff controversial remarks that has establishment Republicans still wary of him, suggesting ISIS offers an example of an admirable commitment to principles that the U.S. lacks.