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.