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Bachmann campaign says Vander Plaats did not ask her to drop out

Politico reported Tuesday afternoon that before he endorsed Rick Santorum for president, Iowa conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats had called Michele Bachmann to ask her to bow out of the presidential race, but the Bachmann campaign is offering a s

Politico reported Tuesday afternoon that before he endorsed Rick Santorum for president, Iowa conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats had called Michele Bachmann to ask her to bow out of the presidential race, but the Bachmann campaign is offering a slightly different story.

According to Politico, Vander Plaats called Bachmann on Saturday to insist she drop out of the race and endorse Santorum with him. Bachmann obviously declined, and Vander Plaats went forward with his announcement on Tuesday.

But Bachmann spokeswoman Alice Stewart told Minnesota Public Radio that the conversation between Vander Plaats and Bachmann wasn’t about dropping out, but rather “merging with another candidate:”

Stewart said Vander Plaats “asked her [Bachmann] to merge with another candidate.” Stewart said the evangelical leader, “didn’t say whether she [Bachmann] should be #1 or #2,” just that she should “consider the possibility of merging with another candidate.”

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Stewart said Vander Plaats did not say which candidate or candidates Bachmann should consider teaming with, but did “hint” that she should look toward Santorum or Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Stewart said Vander Plaats said the best way to beat former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was for the strong faith candidates to merge and go against Romney. Stewart added that Bachmann has no intention of ending her presidential campaign and noted that the Minnesota congresswoman is polling ahead of Santorum.

After the Vander Plaats announcement Tuesday morning, the Bachmann campaign put out a press release with a statement from three pastors and a “faith leader” asserting that she “remains completely deserving” of the endorsement of Vander Plaats’ organization, the Iowa Family Leader, which is remaining neutral in the race.

“Michele Bachmann is a biblically qualified, capable, no-compromise leader who is the only truly consistent conservative in the race. … She has met every criterion that the Family Leader has established. Iowans of faith know that Michele Bachmann, more than any other candidate in the race, can be counted on to defend and encourage the traditional, Christian values that made our country the greatest nation on Earth. She remains completely deserving of the Family Leader’s full endorsement.”

Devin Henry can be reached at dhenry@minnpost.com.