Wanted: Poor Sap to Run State GOP

December 2006
The political world in Colorado was abuzz the last few days amid word that GOP political consultant Dick Wadhams may be returning to the state to run for chair of the state Republican Party. It's a job you couldn't pay me to do, which is good, since it doesn't pay. But more on that in a minute. The reason Wadhams' name is of such interest is because he is a seasoned pro who has directed more big political wins than most (including Sen. Wayne Allard's two campaigns and the 1988 gubernatorial race for Gov. Bill Owens). He shot to national prominence in 2004 by guiding John Thune to an upset victory over then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle in South Dakota. But Wadhams quick rise came to a grinding halt this year when his latest candidate – Virginia Sen. George Allen – was upset in his bid for re-election by Democrat Jim Webb. Allen was poised to run for President in 2008, which is why Wadhams was there, before he self-destructed as a candidate in August (you may remember the "Macaca" racial slur that Allen used). Nobody really blames Wadham for that loss, because Allen's gaffe was really impossible to recover from, but now he's a consultant without a candidate, which is why he may come back to Colorado to head up a decimated Republican Party. If I were Wadhams, I wouldn't do it. I say this because I don't think running the state Republican Party would be a lot of fun. The GOP is fractured in Colorado because of a rift between the conservative and moderate wings that was ripped open further with the Bob Beauprez/Marc Holtzman (almost) gubernatorial primary. Conservatives save their worst venom for their own fellow Republicans, whom they call "RINOs" (Republicans In Name Only) and work to defeat at the cost of general election victories. Meanwhile, the moderate candidates aren't very good (Beauprez and Rick O'Donnell, for example), and there aren't a lot of up-and-coming candidates to push for higher office. Two of the state's three Republican congressional representatives – Marilyn Musgrave and Doug Lamborn – are so far on the fringes of the conservative side that they will never advance beyond their current posts, and the highest-ranked Republican in the state (Allard) is probably going to retire rather than run again for re-election. As if that wasn't bad enough, the state legislature and the governor's mansion belong to Democrats, and the Republicans who are still around at the state capitol are largely a silly bunch who spend their time sticking their foots in their mouths. Being a party chair is never a glorious job anyway, and even if you win you can lose; the 2004 Democratic Party Chair, Chris Gates, was ousted the following spring even though the Dems won back the legislature under his watch. With the rise of outside political groups, most candidates don't pay much attention to the Party's directions anyway. And for all that, you get to take home a salary of zero. That's right - the job doesn't pay anything, unless the GOP changes its Party bylaws, which it may do to accommodate Wadhams. Wadhams was in line to head up a Presidential campaign until his candidate imploded, and now he's apparently considering running the Colorado Republican Party. Maybe he's gotten tired of winning races and raking in big salaries and decided it would be fun to bash his head against a wall – for free - for two years. It would be a big boost to Republicans if Wadhams did decide to take the job, because he's one of the better political minds out there, but I sure as hell wouldn't do it. When you've climbed nearly to the top of your profession, why would you want to go back down?