Will Wadhams Pluck Defeat from the Jaws of Victory?

This week, the Colorado Independent published two reports based on interviews with a number of Republican Party county chairpersons. The Independent was interested in how local party chairs are dealing with the twists and turns at the top of the Republican ticket, meaning the disastrous schism between credibility-challenged GOP nominee Dan Maes and insurgent Tom Tancredo.

Yesterday, the Independent focused on a particular question: how much of the chaos imperiling Republican victory in Colorado today, up and down the ticket, lies at the feet of Colorado GOP chairman Dick Wadhams?

“Dick is a political superstar, nationally. Colorado is very fortunate to have him,” said Scott Starin, Boulder. “The situation with the governor’s race has obviously gotten out of hand. It has gotten ugly. Dick probably could have done more to stem it, but I don’t blame him at all.”

It’s interesting to note that someone’s willingness to be quoted for this story seemed to have little correlation to the person’s views.

“The situation with the governor’s race is out of his control. It’s just not his fault,” said one chair anonymously.

“It is absolutely a reflection of his leadership,” said another who didn’t want to be quoted.

Not surprisingly, though, the most vitriolic comments were offered under cover of anonymity. “Dick Wadhams is one of the worst people I have come across in politics and I’ve been involved a long time. I do think Dick should step down, but he’s not going to. He has brought the GOP to the realm where all we are is name-callers. We have not had any constructive communication from the GOP in years. The situation today is way out of whack and is tarnishing everyone in the party.”

“Dick should step down. Dick could have handled things a lot better than he has,” agreed Ponikvar, Moffat County party chair.

While most county chairs we talked to think Wadhams has had something to do with the mess that is the governor’s race, most also said he has done the best that could be expected and support him overall.

As you can see, loyalty to Wadhams dies hard in some places. But the situation in the gubernatorial race is not some kind of unique development, indeed it can be argued that it is the result of years of high-handed manipulation of the GOP primary process–manipulation that reached a new level of intensity under Wadhams. Of course, nobody can prove that Wadhams was personally responsible for each of these incidents, but they all occurred under his watch.

Think back over the last couple of years. Think about Wayne Wolf’s insider-aborted challenge to Bob Schaffer for the 2008 Senate nomination, and promises made to Wolf to help him run for Congress instead that were worthless ten minutes after Wadhams made them. Think about Scott McInnis being thuggishly muscled aside for Schaffer in the same 2008 race–we all know now that McInnis could not have “beat Udall,” but at the time it was a clear case of insider favoritism. And a short while later, Dick Wadhams was Bob Schaffer’s campaign manager.

Think about Ken Buck’s weekend-long withdrawal from the Senate race last fall, after rumors flew in conservative circles that the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) was greasing the skids for Jane Norton–“the insider’s choice.”

And think about, without inducing whiplash, how much different the gubernatorial race would be had Josh Penry not been pushed out of it. By “party insiders.” All that before we even get to Wadhams’ reckless backstabbing of Maes in an official capacity, after Maes won the Republican Party’s nomination. And let’s not forget the growing questions about the electability of candidates recruited for key legislative races.

All of these events, every one of them that’s been resolved electorally having proved disastrous, have their own unique circumstances. But they have one thing in common–the man in charge.

Bottom line: if Wadhams is able to claim enough victories–especially the U.S. Senate and state legislative races–he might well be able to escape the gubernatorial disaster with his very well-salaried position intact. But if Colorado, due to all of our “unique circumstances,” dramatically fails to join the much-hyped Republican wave this November, it’s a real question whether Wadhams will be able to suppress the anonymous dissent above until the next regular leadership selection.


21 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Froward69 says:

    at first I was a little afraid of him. then after a few years and this election cycle. I positively LOVE him. he is the best gift republicans have ever given to the Democrats in Colorado. I do hope he maintains his position (give him a raise even) and lives out the rest of his days playing Rovian politics just as he knows how.

    conservatism after all is NOT CHANGING A Single thing.

    I toast to D-Wads continued presence as chief of the Colorado republic party.

  2. Ellie says:

    I’ll say this once again, Josh Penry wasn’t pushed out except for his own personal problems.  Did any others know (besides his marry band of insiders)about some of his problems?  Rumors fly here in his hometown and under the capitol dome so it’s reasonable to assume they did, but whether they talked to Josh about withdrawing I can’t say. What I am comfortable in saying is that  his ego is too large to be “pushed out” of any race. Certainly his big supporter Wadhams would have moved heaven and earth to keep him going if Josh had chosen to do so.

    Finally, I don’t think Wadhams is the only problem with the Republican party I use to support, but he’s certainly one of the big problems here in Colorado.

    • Libertad 2.0 says:

      There’s a reason we haven’t been hearing from Joshua too much, and it ain’t because Norton lost.

    • ajb says:

      I would love to see a Republican politician emerge in Colorado along the lines of Tom Campbell in California. Unfortunately, even there, he’s not pure enough to win many primaries, though he just kills it in the general. If somebody like Campbell could make through the primary, I think they could make a pretty good run at Perlmutter, or even Polis.  

    • Colorado Pols says:

      But the pressure to force Penry out from high levels, whatever the underlying reason, is well documented.

      • Ellie says:

        You wouldn’t be trafficing in politics if you didn’t enjoy a good rumor.  Writing something up does not a documented confirmation make it even if attributed to that daily gossip rag they publish in Denver or Jason Salzman in the Independent.

      • VanDammer says:

        but Ellie & other’s can.  Post away.  I’m always game for watching clotheslines for more Repub dirty laundry.

      • 20th Maine says:


        pressure to force Penry out from high levels

        You have zero first hand evidence that Wadhams tried to get Penry out.  Anyone close to the GOP primary operatives knows that the McInnis camp was continuously complaining about Wadhams’ supposed favoritism toward Penry.

        Of course there were plenty of high level folks trying to get Penry out – those supporting McInnis.  And Penry folks (he had plenty of high level support himself) were trying to talk McInnis out of it.  That should be a given unworthy of comment.

        After the fundraising numbers started coming in it became clear that McInnis wasn’t going anywhere.  Josh’s numbers came in slower so there was continued pressure on him.

        I have no idea why Josh ultimately dropped out.  But Wadhams definitely didn’t encourage him to do so.

  3. Interlocken Loop says:


    That is 2% more of a chance than I’d give him

  4. 20th Maine says:

    You’d actually have a stronger argument to your point if you put Wadhams on the other side of these battles.  Wadhams was closer to Penry than McInnis.  Wadhams was closer to Buck (how often have Wadhams & Klein worked together?).

    I’ll give you Schaffer over Wolfe – though, DW was with 99% of registered Republicans on that one.  I suppose you could argue why they even cared about Wolfe.

    As for this year’s election, despite what your Big Line says, the GOP is likely to do much better than Dems this year.  EXCEPT, for Gov.  Wadhams has handled this as well as could be expected.

    He had a Penry-McInnis-Maes primary where he was getting hate mail from McInnis supporters for favoring Penry (though there’s no evidence he ever actually acted upon it).  Penry dropped out.  So – he’s got McInnis & Maes.  

    It is not the state party’s obligation to vet it’s primary candidates.  It’s up to the campaigns themselves and their opponents.  McInnis was thought to be a known factor, for better and worse.  No one cared about Maes b/c that would be like spending a lot of money on Wayne Wolfe research in a primary with Bob Schaffer.  McInnis was a ‘known’ quantity and Maes was a non-quantity.

    Shame on McInnis, Maes & even Hasan’s for not highliting or uncovering the plagiarism.  Wadhams & GOP are there to facilitate and support, not to do oppo research on major campaigns.

    So, DW is stuck with this guy whose stock is plummeting.  At first, it was appropriate for him, in his official position, to continue support for the GOP nominee.  That included taking on Tancredo.  And as Maes went from barely qualified to unqualifed (before our eyes), it was in the best interest of the party for DW to look for a legitimate way out – that would be the so-called backroom dealing with Tancredo.  By this time however, the entire GOP outside of Maes and Schultheis were in that backroom.

    You people make Oliver Stone and Peter Boyles look rational.  The easiest explanation is usually the right one.  Outside of the Gov’s race, the GOP is united and will do well on Nov. 2.

  5. GOPwarrior says:

    Has won many more than he has lost, and Wadhams has the confidence of the Party. He is not omnipotent, and some things that have happened are beyond anyone’s control.

    He will yet preside over a great victory. He does not need to worry about his job.

  6. bjwilson83 says:

    You want Republicans divided going into the elections. Let’s just not forget about the Democrat Party’s heavy handed squashing of Romanoff, both with the appointment of Bennet and in the primary. If I were a Democrat right now I would feel very little loyalty to the party.

    • Voyageur says:

      How did Democrats choosing Bennet by 8 pct in the primary constitute a “heavy-handed squashing” of Romo, any more than Buck’s 4 point edge over Norton did in the gop lovefest?


      • bjwilson83 says:

        Last I heard, on primary election night, it was a landslide. Pols was very complicit in squashing Romanoff supporters from day one. Then there was the never-before-seen presidential involvement in the primaries, etc. Not to mention that Romanoff, who did all the hard work in Colorado for Dems, should have been appointed rather than brown noser Bennet in the first place.

        • Voyageur says:

          8 percent is a substantial margin, but it is administered by the voting members of the Democratic party.  How is that a heavy-handed squashing?, which implies that party officials somehow conspired.

            It’s great to see your concern for all those oppressed liberal Democrats, however.  

          I’m sure you’re sincere, not just a lousy hypocrite doing your little troll thing.  

            As to

          never-before-seen presidential involvement in the primaries

          , Boy Are You Dumb!

          Try googling Franklin D. Roosevelt sometime.

          Probably after you get through googling “Guidon.”

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