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posted Feb 9, 2011, 11:39 AM by Ting Dai

A General Trapped In A Diplomat’s Job
Dominic Dezzutti
February 8, 2011

Dick Wadhams surprised politicians and pundits alike on Monday when he announced that he would not run for a third term as chair of the Colorado Republican Party.

Wadhams had previously announced he would run, but he said that while he figured he had the votes to win, he had tired of dealing with people who “saw conspiracies around every corner.”

It seems that Wadhams’ decision simply came down to the frustration with a major wing of his party wanting “true” conservatives, yet still desiring to win a state that is still firmly purple and moderate.

Activist Republicans in the state want to have their cake and eat it too, and that simply isn’t possible against a very competitive Democratic Party. I can certainly understand Wadhams’ issue with party activists that want the most conservative candidates in the primary, but can’t understand why those same candidates are beaten in the general election.

That would be a frustrating attitude to deal with as a party chair. But, Wadhams’ stint as party chair didn’t start out with that much frustration. In fact, it started out with much more optimism.

When Wadhams came back to Colorado to head the Republican Party, I figured he was going to snap the party into shape and get the party back on track after losing the State House. Wadhams was extremely effective as a Campaign Manager here in Colorado in the late 1990’s and his national campaign with Sen. George Allen was derailed by the candidate, not his strategy.

Frankly, despite the Allen mishap, Wadhams was coming home with a strong and competitive reputation.

However, the big problem for Wadhams was that as a party chair, he didn’t have the kind of power to create change in the trenches of the campaign that he did as a Campaign Manager.

I like to think of it like this. Gen. George Patton was one of the most effective Generals to serve in the U.S. military. He demanded a high level of performance from his troops and did his best when he was right there in the battle with his soldiers.

But if you put Patton in, say, Eisenhower’s position in World War II, he would have floundered. Without direct authority over the instant movements in the war, Patton would have failed to have the same effectiveness. He wouldn’t have been any less brilliant, the environment would have hampered his style.

Wadhams is not unlike Patton, and as party chair, Wadhams was too far from the front lines and didn’t have the direct authority over the campaigns to make the instant changes that effective campaigns need to make.

In the end, I think we will see Wadhams back in Colorado politics fairly soon. 2012 might be too soon, only because there will not be a statewide race in Colorado.

However, in 2014, Sen. Mark Udall and Gov. John Hickenlooper will both be running for re-election. That sounds like the prime opportunity for Wadhams to take his rightful place as one of the GOP’s best field generals.

That also might be enough time for GOP party activists to decide if they want truly conservative candidates, or if they want to govern. We’ve already seen that doing both really isn’t an option.

Carroll: Don't blame Dick Wadhams
By Vincent Carroll
February 9, 2011

Ted Harvey is seeking the post of state Republican Party chair because he wants to "return authentic conservative leadership to the party structure," he said in his announcement.

You've got to appreciate the audacity of the word "authentic." The current party chair, Dick Wadhams, who announced Monday that he will not seek re-election, has only spent his entire career working for the likes of Bill Armstrong, Conrad Burns, Bill Owens, Wayne Allard and George Allen — and no, I don't mean the coach — with nary a political moderate in the mix.

And when Wadhams wasn't picking up a regular paycheck from one of these free-market oriented, small government officeholders, he was engineering the election of Hank Brown to the U.S. Senate, the most fiscally conservative Coloradan to sit in that body in the past few decades, or trying, unsuccessfully, to elect a conservative like Bob Schaffer to that office as well.

Or he was coordinating the upset of Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle in South Dakota on behalf of now-Sen. John Thune.

On Tuesday, Harvey, the Highlands Ranch senator, told me his dig about "authentic conservative leadership" wasn't really directed at Wadhams, who had intended to run for another term until he got fed up with critics blaming him for the loss of the Senate and governor races last fall. "He got us through some of the most trying times in our party's history," Harvey says of Wadhams. "Having said that, many of us believe we need new leadership" that can heal party divisions and "unite our base."
If the base splintered last fall, however, it was only in the governor's race, where a host of "authentic" grassroots conservatives saw fit to nominate a huckster with the most threadbare credentials of any major party candidate for statewide office in decades. The alternative at the time, the plagiarist Scott McInnis, was hardly a hard-core conservative, but he was no favorite of Wadhams, either — except in that particular race.

Meanwhile, the Republican base remained loyal to Ken Buck in the Senate contest. Buck's problem was that too many independent voters refused to support him after Democrats spent months portraying him, thanks in part to his own missteps, as a modern-day Archie Bunker.

"It disgusted me after the election when all of these pundits said the Democratic ground game pulled Democrats like (U.S. Sen. Michael) Bennet across the line," Wadhams told me. "We had much higher Republican turnout than the Democrats — more than 100,000 more party voters even though our registration edge was only 8,000. We had a great story. How do you think Scott Gessler and Walker Stapleton defeated incumbents (for secretary of state and treasurer)?"

Wadhams has a point. Final figures from the state show 722,356 Republicans voted, as opposed to 615,119 Democrats. Gessler and Stapleton easily outpolled Buck, as did the at-large Republican regent, Steve Bosley. And the biggest vote-getter of the day was not the likeable Democrat John Hickenlooper, cruising to victory with hardly a dollar of national GOP money spent to sully his name, but Attorney General John Suthers, another Republican. No splintering among Republicans there.

Should Republicans have done better in the legislature, and especially in the state Senate? Undoubtedly, but it will be tough sledding in those races until conservatives match the independent expenditures of the left. Yet it's not a party chair's job to drum up so-called 527 spending, unless he's angling for a stint in prison.

Still, Harvey is probably right that Republicans need new leadership given the distrust by so many Tea Party types to what they consider the Old Guard. "We need to embrace the free-market, lower taxes, patriot conservatives who are newly coming to our party and encourage and direct them on how to be effective," Harvey said.

Fair enough. If Harvey wins, he could start by reminding the newcomers that Tom Tancredo and Dan Maes together failed to match Hickenlooper's vote total, and that Buck lost in part because he spent too much of the primary pandering to some of the more controversial views on the right, such as the "fair tax" and repeal of the 17th amendment.
So hurray for party unity and fresh faces. But candidates are still going to get trounced if they can't tack to the middle when it counts.

Editorial: Next GOP chair needs to put an end to purity tests
Dick Wadhams' replacement will have to convince Republican voters in Colorado to accept good but "imperfect" candidates.
By The Denver Post
February 9, 2011

Dick Wadhams never has been one to mince words, so we shouldn't have been surprised to see him speak so frankly about the state of the Colorado Republican Party as he departs as its chairman.

"I have loved being chairman, but I'm tired of the nuts who have no grasp of what the state party's role is," he told The Post's Lynn Bartels in what you might think was a moment of candor. After all, it's not often a chair of a state party calls some of its members nuts.

But he continued on in his official press release:

". . . I have tired of those who are obsessed with seeing conspiracies around every corner and who have terribly misguided notions of what the role of the state party is while saying 'uniting conservatives' is all that is needed to win competitive races across the state," he said.

Even if Colorado Republicans could unite all conservatives, they still can't win. In Colorado, you need to win over a few of the moderate, unaffiliated voters and to do that you need candidates who appeal to a broader spectrum of voters.

Conservatives can win statewide. Bill Owens and Wayne Allard proved that. But you can't win over moderates if the far right wing of the party — the nuts, perhaps? — blackballs candidates simply because they once held elected office (surely they must be tainted!) or if they're perceived as being pragmatic in some way. Those voters helped sink former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton's Senate bid because she had the audacity to back Referendum C, which allowed the state to keep the revenues it already was collecting without a hike in the tax rate. Oh, the horrors!

Why does this matter to us? Because Coloradans deserve choices.

Republicans produced a gubernatorial candidate last year who may have been well-intentioned but had no business governing the state.

The next state GOP chair will have to convince party voters to drop the purity tests and accept candidates who may not be perfect but will vote their way on nearly every issue.

It won't be easy in this political environment.