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Shakeup alert: Another Mike Haridopolos staffer leaves, another to follow?

Mike Haridopolos' pollster and longtime political adviser Pat Bainter is winding down his role on Haridopolos' U.S. Senate campaign to focus more energy and attention on legislative races in the busy 2012 cycle, sources say. It was described to us less about problems on the Haridopolos campaign and more about the state GOP needing Bainter's full attention on the huge number of legislative races in a redistricting year.

But that explanation from a source doesn't quite add up when we talked to Sen. Don Gaetz, who's to succeed Haridopolos as Senate President and is in charge of the Senate Victory campaign effort to elect Republicans to his chamber.

Asked if he had spoken with Bainter about specifically working on any campaigns for Senate Victory, Gaetz said: “No. I’ve had very general discussions with Pat. I understood his first loyalty was with President Haridopolos. I don’t have a contract with him. I haven’t come to any agreement with him about how much time he has available. He’s one of the most successful political campaign managers in our state’s history, and if he can work for us that would be great.”

Gaetz was surprised with the word that Bainter might leave Haridopolos' campaign, but said he had heard nothing until he was called by a reporter.

Bainter and Haridopolos go way back so it's a major development that bodes badly for Haridopolos. It would be like George LeMieux leaving in the middle of Charlie Crist's gubernatorial campaign, Randy Nielsen (who might replace Bainter) dropping off of Jeff Atwater's campaign or Dave Beattie dropping off  Bill Nelson's. And it comes after Haridopolos' Florida Senate chief of staff and communications director left Haridopolos.

What's more there's considerable buzz that Tim Baker, Haridopolos' campaign manager, also is leaving the campaign. We asked Baker about that two hours ago, but he has had no comment so far. Haridopolos also has not responded to a request for comment. Bainter would not return calls, either.

The response (or lack of it) is odd. Florida is a state where Republicans have a good shot at winning, albeit Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson is tough to beat. If reporters from two of the state's biggest and most influential newspapers call and send emails, wouldn't a major-league campaign muster some type of response?

--Adam Smith contributed substantially to (i.e., broke) the story