Oof: Chairman of Rick Perry's Iowa campaign quits -- and joins Team Trump

At this rate, it’s hard to believe he won’t be the first mid-major candidate out of the race. His fundraising has been so poor, thanks in part to Ted Cruz soaking up lots of Texas money, that Perry had to temporarily stop paying his staff two weeks ago. The money’s since started flowing again as the campaign has begun to outsource operations to his Super PAC, which has plenty of dough in the bank, but there’s no getting around the perception that he’s struggling. With good reason: He’s currently at 1.3 percent in RCP’s poll average in Iowa. He hasn’t been above four percent in a poll there all year.

And now, to add insult to injury, his Iowa chairman’s headed off to join the campaign of a guy he called a cancer on conservatism.

Perry’s campaign only raised $1 million in June. By comparison, notes CNN, Ted Cruz raised $1 million on his first day in the race. So why’d Clovis leave? Was it a money thing or a going-nowhere-in-the-polls thing? He told the Austin American-Statesman that it was more of a communication thing: “I had not heard from the campaign in quite some time and I assessed that they were making adjustments based on their situation and I was not part of that conversation. I had said I would hang in there with him early on but I never heard from them.” Hmmm. Clovis was their Iowa chairman; it seems … unlikely that they’d cut him out of their early-state planning for a few weeks. Meanwhile, he sure has sounded excited about Trumpmania lately in interviews with WaPo:

“It’s been fascinating,” Clovis said of Trump’s rise, adding that he’s so intrigued by Trump that he now watches MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” each day and tries to sees his rallies live on television.

“What the hell else do you have to do on a Friday night except watch Donald Trump in a football stadium?” Clovis said, referencing last week’s Trump rally in Mobile, Ala. “It was fascinating. It’s like watching NASCAR. You just can’t take your eyes off the cars.”

Earlier this month, Clovis described Trump as a force to be reckoned with. “I see them as a major threat to all the other campaigns because of the aggressiveness of their ground game,” he told The Washington Post. “You cannot swing a dead cat in Iowa and not hit a Trump person. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. . . . Every event we go to — the Boone County Eisenhower Social, the Black Hawk County Lincoln ­Dinner, the boots-and-barbecue down in Denison — the Trump people are everywhere with literature and T-shirts and signing people up.”

How long was Clovis being quietly wooed by Team Trump? Did he really jump ship because the communication lines went dark (or the money briefly ran dry) or did Trump just convince him? You can imagine how much an egomaniac like him would relish picking off a major staffer from a guy whose campaign has been distinguished so far by his eagerness to attack Trump and “Trumpism.” I wonder how many secret calls Lindsey Graham’s campaign manager has had with Team Trump about coming aboard.

This isn’t the only story swirling in the past 24 hours either about Trump trying to score a PR coup by winning over a prominent supporter of one of his competitors. The WSJ published a piece yesterday about him chatting with Anthony Scaramucci, a hedge-fund manager who’s backing Scott Walker, about joining his campaign. Each man said the other initiated the call; my bet is that it was Trump who reached out, partly because Scaramucci laid into him on Fox yesterday (watch below) and partly because headhunting among other campaigns’ personnel makes lots of PR sense for Trump. Every time he recruits a Clovis or a Scaramucci from a professional pol, it makes his own campaign seem more professional and credible. And as I say, it surely gooses his ego. Even the pros think he’s a plausible enough nominee now that they’re willing to dump a respected governor like Perry (and maybe, eventually, Walker) to work for him. I bet Clovis won’t be the last big name to jump ship. Exit question: Will Perry hang on until February to compete in the caucuses?