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Check out our roundup of Dick Wadhams’ most unforgettable quotes and campaign commercials here.
Senior editor Luc Hatlestad discusses his time with Dick Wadhams.
At 5:29 p.m. on Friday, August 11, 2006, George Allen was rolling. As he prepped for that evening’s stump speech, the Republican incumbent senator from Virginia scanned the small crowd. Sure enough, just as Dick Wadhams had predicted, the kid with the video camera was there.
Allen had recruited Wadhams, the emerging Republican operative from Colorado, to be his chief of staff a year earlier, and later tapped him to run his reelection campaign. It was supposed to be a cakewalk, a rehearsal for Allen’s White House run in 2008, and as Virginians settled down to dinner that night, the campaign couldn’t have been going much better. Allen enjoyed a healthy lead in the polls, and he had several million dollars in the bank. Democratic opponent Jim Webb’s operation was in such financial disarray that it seemed certain that Allen would cruise to victory in November.
By the time Virginians got to the breakfast table on Monday, it had all gone to hell. In their morning papers and on the TV news, they learned about the kid, a mocha-skinned young man, a Webb volunteer following Allen with a camera to make sure he wasn’t saying one thing in one part of the state and contradicting himself elsewhere. It was standard campaign due diligence; the Allen folks had their own staffer doing the same thing at Webb’s events. Campaign strategists had told Allen to point out the young man, whose name happened to be S.R. Sidarth. Nothing fancy, just a playful little wink to the crowd that said, “Friends, they’ve got their eyes on us, and we know it.”
On the small makeshift stage that evening, Allen flowed seamlessly from his prepared remarks to the aside that would change everything. Just one word. A word that almost no one had heard before, a word that, with shocking virulence, would destroy Allen’s career and cripple Wadhams’ own budding notoriety. A word that would become synonymous with political suicide.
“We’re going to run this campaign on positive, constructive ideas, and it’s important that we motivate and inspire people for something,” Allen told his audience. “This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, macaca or whatever his name is. He’s with my opponent. He’s following us around everywhere. And it’s just great…. Let’s give a welcome to macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.”
Almost two years after Allen’s spectacular flameout, the man some call “Dick Wad” is at it again. Fiery rays of midmorning July sunshine stream through the glass-walled cafeteria in which Wadhams and Republican Senate hopeful Bob Schaffer sit quietly. Schaffer’s first debate against Mark Udall, his opening skirmish in this uphill election year, is moments away, and the showdown will be an early indicator of whether Republicans, so humbled in recent statewide and national races, can cling to a desperately needed Senate seat. It also will reveal whether Wadhams, Schaffer’s campaign manager and the head of the Colorado GOP, can return to his old kingmaking ways. Each man has doubters, yet with each of their political futures a few months from being either exalted or impaired, they’re conveying all the tension of a couple guys waiting for a bus.
Schaffer grabs an accordion-style folder crammed with papers and strides into the lecture hall where the debate will take place, causing the low-level hum to spike into a rousing welcome. He wades through the crowd of about 500 people toward the stage, shaking hands and weathering backslaps as his supporters wave red and white signs and holler his name. After securing seats up front for Schaffer’s wife and daughter, Wadhams stations himself in the back of the room while Udall’s fans, a beat late, try to outdo the Schaffer folks with their own enthusiasm.
About 40 minutes into the hour-long debate, amid the pro forma back-and-forth, Schaffer goes for the knockout. He begins reading a document pulled from his accordion folder: “Whereas Iraq’s failure to comply with its international obligations to destroy or dismantle its weapons of mass destruction program….” It’s the House resolution introduced in the fall of 2002, the one that empowered President Bush to enter Iraq, the one that makes so many people—politicians and citizens, red staters and blue staters—for so many reasons, long for a mulligan.
Schaffer finishes reading and asks who in the room still supports the resolution. Most of the hands on his side shoot upward; not a single one rises among Udall’s supporters. Like a magician unveiling the prestige, Schaffer says that the resolution’s author was none other than Mark Udall. A startling whoop engulfs the room as Wadhams explodes. “That’s yours, Udall!” he shouts with unrestrained glee.
Moments later, as the crowd streams from the hall, Wadhams beams triumphantly—at home in his element, and up to his old tricks. “In my opinion,” he says, “that was an old-fashioned butt-kicking.”
The debate “gotcha” was vintage Wadhams, a well-known wielder of a cheeky campaign-trail arsenal that his allies laud and his detractors begrudgingly acknowledge for its effectiveness. Schaffer was indeed reading from the resolution that Udall authored; however, it wasn’t the one that ultimately passed. The resolution Udall helped introduce—which failed—contained a key difference: a provision that would allow Congress to withhold approval for an invasion of Iraq until all diplomatic measures had been exhausted.
Only the Colorado Statesman, a weekly nonpartisan political newspaper with a circulation of about 6,000, offered a detailed breakdown of the chicanery. “It was said in an awkward way,” Wadhams was quoted in the Statesman, offering a flim-flammy rationalization for something that was clearly designed to mislead. Udall’s limp response—he failed to point out the discrepancy between what Schaffer led the crowd to believe and what actually happened—didn’t help. Udall consultant Mike Stratton later suggested that the Schaffer supporters had been “cued” to expect theatrics of some sort. “It was totally nefarious, designed to make a scene and knock Mark off his game,” Stratton says.
Such is life when the foe is Dick Wadhams, the Karl Rove acolyte who has built his reputation around winning ugly. Armed with a genius for details—associates marvel at his ability to remember obscure factoids from long-ago campaigns—simplicity, and mischief, Wadhams knocks his opponents off message and makes distractions, not the more substantive issues, what voters remember and respond to. The blogosphere runs stories about his hair-trigger temper and nose-thumbing appeals to the lowest common denominator, while commentators ridicule his ad infinitum use of the “Boulder Liberal” tag for Mark Udall in this year’s Senate race. All of which means that, for the most part, his methods are working.
But for a man whose media-cultivated image is pure political bully, Wadhams often doesn’t look—or act—the part. His default expression is a smile, sometimes smug or mischievous, but often warm and welcoming. His steel-blue eyes twinkle at the jokes and chummy stories he shares with friends and foes alike during the lulls at political events. He is gracious with his time, and acquaintances describe him as exceedingly kind. He treats his junior staffers as part of the team rather than mere gofers. Many of his closest friends have known him since childhood and don’t necessarily agree with him politically; the man Wadhams calls one of his best friends in the world, Bill Long, is the Democratic commissioner for Bent County.
“He has a knack for friendship and loyalty, and he cares about people,” says Bill Armstrong, the legendary Colorado politician and one of Wadhams’ primary mentors. Armstrong, now the president of Colorado Christian University in Denver, says Wadhams’ geniality stems from his personal code. “He’s an idealist,” Armstrong says. “He is disdainful of people who cut moral corners, and he honors people who stand up for what they believe, even if it’s not what he believes.” Even some of his opponents agree. “He can be quite respectful,” says Chris Watney, who was the communications director for Tom Strickland in the 2002 senatorial campaign that Strickland lost to the Wadhams-managed Wayne Allard. “I don’t think he thinks that people who disagree with him are idiots.”
Dick Wadhams was born on August 26, 1955, the fifth of six children who grew up tending the family’s Las Animas farm, mostly sugar beets and livestock. Dad was a Republican; Mom was a New Deal Democrat until motherly pride in Dick’s career choice coaxed her to switch sides.
Wadhams financed his college years by working in a mortuary, so by the time he entered politics, making stiffs seem lifelike had become a well-honed skill. He attended two community colleges before earning his political science degree from the University of Southern Colorado (now CSU-Pueblo) and distinguished himself as a small-government iconoclast in the post-Watergate ’70s. He’s a cultural conservative and casually devout Catholic who doesn’t use issues like abortion or gay marriage as a litmus test for who he’ll represent. “I had no apologies for Nixon, but I’ve always felt Republicans believe in the freedom of living their lives without a lot of government, economically and every other way,” he says. His youthful devotion to conservatism led Bent County officials to offer him their GOP chairmanship when he was 19, primarily, he says, because “nobody else wanted to do it.”
His avocation soon evolved into a full-time obsession. (To this day, Wadhams rarely vacations, and the closest thing he has to a hobby is reading about politics and history.) Within several years of becoming Bent County chair he was apprenticing under Bill Armstrong, and he later worked for Colorado Republican stalwarts Bill Owens and Hank Brown. It was during Bo Callaway’s Senate campaign in 1980 that Wadhams, deeply devoted to the first love of his life, met the second in Susan Farrell, a fellow staffer whose adoration for politics matched his own. After their marriage in 1982, the tandem became a behind-the-scenes power couple on the state political scene for the next two decades, with Dick organizing campaigns and Susan working a variety of high-profile positions, including a stint as Bob Schaffer’s chief of staff when he was a U.S. representative.
Susan had a son and daughter from a previous marriage, and family life in Dick and Susan’s Littleton home was harmonious, if unconventional. Though the concept of “soul mates” probably would have been a tad too touchy-feely for these two workaholic conservatives, everyone who knew the couple agrees that they were uncannily well-matched. “They were awesome together,” says Wadhams’ stepdaughter Khristie Barker. “Most people come home from work and life goes on, but they’d still be going over everything that happened that day.” Instead of dinner parties or neighborhood barbecues, the couple hosted caucuses, and family activities included passing out campaign flyers and attending Lincoln Day fund-raisers. “Those poor kids were subjected to a lot of political events,” Wadhams says with a laugh. “But Susan went out of her way to make sure things were as normal as possible at home.”
Wadhams also showed a tender side to his family that might strain the credulity of those who see him as a cynical Machiavelli. One of Barker’s first memories of him came after her childhood cat died. “In Richard’s fashion, he wrote me a letter I still have about how sad it is and so on,” she says. “Once he took off his political hat, he was the opposite of what people think of him. I don’t think he can show his humanity to the outside world without losing his edge. But he was just like a dad.”
On the campaign trail, he was more like a bulldog. He ran come-from-behind senatorial races for Wayne Allard in Colorado, campaigns in which Wadhams recast Allard’s perceived blandness into the advantage that delivered victories in 1996 and 2002. He also helped Conrad Burns, another underdog, to victory in Montana in 2000. A year after the Burns win, though, Wadhams lost Susan to a three-year battle with breast cancer. News of her illness, and its seriousness, surprised many. “When she was really sick during the last few months, she would implore me to go to the office,” Wadhams says. “She didn’t want me to dwell on her situation to the point where I wasn’t doing my job.”
Tributes flowed in from around the state after Susan’s death. “She was one of Colorado’s brightest political minds, and I learned most of what I know about moving an agenda forward in Washington from her,” Bob Schaffer says. “She had a deep sense of purpose and knowledge about political circles at all levels of government.”
Armstrong says Susan was a beloved figure in state Republican circles and talks of the sorrow that friends and colleagues experienced after her death. But Wadhams kept his game face on, just like his late wife would’ve told him to. “She was a great sounding board; it was a big void immediately after she passed away, and still is. She was very good at it, and she probably was smarter than me,” he says before quickly adding, “Obviously, there were a lot of reasons I missed her, but she was great to talk about work things with.”
If anyone expected Wadhams to have a changed perspective—on life or on politics—after Susan’s death, it quickly became clear that the man from Las Animas wouldn’t wallow in self-pity about his loss. To no one’s surprise, he found solace by throwing himself back into work. After managing Allard’s win in 2002, he headed up South Dakotan John Thune’s 2004 Senate campaign against Senate minority leader Tom Daschle. People on both sides of the aisle thought Thune’s campaign was hopeless, but the combination of Wadhams’ elementary, disciplined message—and, some argue, shenanigans that walked a tightrope between ingenious and unethical—sent Thune to Capitol Hill and Wadhams into a rarified spotlight.
Suddenly a star, Wadhams went nationwide. After Thune’s victory, Wadhams was tapped to be Allen’s chief of staff in Virginia. The combination of the Senator’s rising star and Wadhams’ proximity to it prompted Slate magazine to dub Wadhams the next Karl Rove. Then the monkey business ensued.
Negativity is a staple of American politics for one simple reason: Time and again, it works. “Didn’t Jefferson say some incredibly offensive things about John Adams and pay others to anonymously say incredibly negative things about him? Didn’t they describe Lincoln as looking like a baboon?” Bill Armstrong says. “People say the process is a lot less civil than it used to be, but I don’t buy into that.”
The explosive evolution of media, particularly the rise of the Internet, and of 527 special-interest groups—the notoriously slanted, tax-exempt lobbying organizations that introduced “Swift-boating” into the American political lexicon—has instilled the sense that candidates must define themselves before their opponents do it for them, and that they must respond to even the tiniest gaffe immediately and forcefully. “The outcome of elections is now determined by whether 527s form, how much money they raise, and how effective their ads are,” says Bob Loevy, a political science professor at Colorado College. “To not develop the negative side is to lose the election. This is how the game is played now, and candidates who want to win need a manager like Dick Wadhams.”
Even before he started managing campaigns, Wadhams developed the strategy that his candidates have, more often than not, ridden to victory: Find your message, phrase it in the simplest, most memorable terms possible, and bludgeon voters and the media to death with it. Wayne Allard won two terms by religiously following the Wadhams blueprint that characterized Allard as the small-town veterinarian and his opponent, Democrat Tom Strickland, as a lawyer-lobbyist—a label he never could shake. “One of the mistakes we made was that we tried to be really substantive and come up with great ideas,” says a source who consulted on both Strickland campaign teams. “We tried to talk about those things and hoped that voters would see the race as this thoughtful guy versus this really disciplined, destructive guy, but Wadhams came up with the ‘lawyer-lobbyist’ tag and used it like a hammer.”
Even Allard admits such tactics can become monotonous. “A lot of superfluous stuff flows into a campaign, but Dick is able to figure out the areas that really matter and keep you focused,” he says. “It gets downright boring, but it keeps you out of trouble.” For his part, Wadhams is incredulous that his opponents never saw the races as clearly as he did. “Democrats never gave Allard credit for coming across as the average Coloradan,” he says. “Coloradans first want to know if they like you, then they’ll listen to you on the issues. But if they don’t like you, they won’t care where you stand.”
Along with the insistent messaging come the tricks. Supporters of Wadhams’ candidates have heckled the opposition in parking lots outside campaign events, and he’s notorious for drawing attention to himself when things aren’t going well for his boss. “I’ve seen his candidates get their asses handed to them in a debate, and rather than talk about that he’ll storm out and get into a yelling match with his opponent’s staff,” says the Strickland consultant. “So instead of the [news] story being about his guy getting destroyed, it’s about the fight Wadhams got into.” During Strickland’s second campaign, in 2002, the candidate’s team wanted to showcase his environmental credentials, so they had volunteers fan out across Colorado to climb all the state’s fourteeners in a single day. When Strickland’s group got halfway up their peak, they encountered a band of “lawyer-lobbyist” sign-waving, insult-shouting Allard supporters. “It was just a distraction technique that had no meaning, but they got what they wanted,” Strickland’s then-communications director, Chris Watney, says today. “It was a brilliant Wadhams moment, but at the time I thought it was gross.”
The Full Wadhams was on display in the Daschle race in South Dakota. Wadhams agreed to manage Senate hopeful John Thune after meeting with him and sensing a simpatico resolve. Thune had lost a bruising Senate election to Democrat Tim Johnson in 2002 by only 524 votes and wanted to jump right back into the fire. Wadhams admired Thune’s resilience and, he admits, saw a chance to burnish his own reputation against the powerful Daschle. “When you lose a race like [Thune] had lost, the hardest thing to do is get back into another race,” Wadhams says. “He wanted to run against a tougher opponent with a 26-year track record. I thought he had to be either crazy or one of the most tenacious people you could be, and taking on the most powerful Democrat in Congress was very appealing to me.”
Their message: Daschle had drifted left and thus out of touch with South Dakotans’ values. Daschle’s stature and vulnerability brought national scrutiny and about $35 million in total campaign spending to a state with a population of only 770,000. The gamesmanship ran right up to Election Day, when a judge issued a restraining order preventing Republicans from writing down license plate numbers of vans bringing Native American voters—a key Daschle constituency—to the polls. Thune upset Daschle by winning 51 percent of the vote, ousting a Senate party leader for the first time in half a century.
Once the campaign was over, stories emerged that claimed Wadhams had paid two South Dakota bloggers to wage a publicity war against the state’s largest newspaper, the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader. Wadhams had grown frustrated with what he perceived to be the paper’s institutional bias toward Daschle, and today he says he paid the two bloggers to do opposition research on Daschle’s record, not to blog for his candidate, which “they were going to do whether or not I was there.” Some reports say the bloggers’ repeated attacks spurred the paper to shuffle experienced political reporters away from its campaign coverage, which the paper has always denied. (The Argus-Leader did not respond to requests for comment.) Wadhams says he regrets how relentlessly the bloggers went after a particular reporter, but he says that his payments were neither “secret” nor underhanded. Ethical guidelines for bloggers have yet to emerge and certainly didn’t exist in 2004, so Wadhams was merely doing what the system allowed. “I have a funny way of ‘secretly’ paying somebody,” he says. “It’s right there in our FEC filings: how much I paid them, and when.”
Critics of slash-and-burn campaigning see sinister motivations behind such antics, especially when they come from the Republican side, which usually benefits from lower voter turnout. “The theory is that if you can create an atmosphere in which both candidates are sparring and reinforcing the worst fear people have about candidates and campaigns, Republican candidates are better able to hold their voters than Democrats do in a negative environment,” says Democratic consultant Mike Stratton. “In a state like Colorado, where there’s a plurality of independents, if you can turn those people off you’ve succeeded.”
Even Mark Udall’s campaign deploys Wadhams-like tactics because, of course, they have a successful track record. “They like to talk about ‘Big Oil’ Bob Schaffer—fine,” Wadhams says. “That’s the give and take of a campaign. I do believe in staying on message, and as simple as it sounds it’s the single hardest thing for campaigns to do. It’s so easy to get diverted.” It’s a lesson that Wadhams, flirting with political superstardom after his stunning Thune victory, seemed to forget when he took his act beyond his comfort zone.
The Wikipedi-ized version of the George Allen story says he could have been our 44th president had he not committed the venal sin of uttering the word macaca. As always in politics, the reality was far more complex than the image. In 1993, Allen won the governorship of Virginia by the largest margin in decades, and he was the only Republican to unseat a Democratic incumbent senator in 2000. (State law limits Virginia governors to one term.) Wadhams calls Allen one of the most popular, “consequential” governors in Virginia’s illustrious history, and as the 2006 elections approached he was widely pegged as a front-runner to succeed President Bush.
Wadhams joined Allen in 2005 as his chief of staff. Today, Wadhams says he’d have preferred that Allen vacate his Senate seat if he wanted to focus on a presidential bid, but Allen decided to run for a second term, putting Wadhams back where he was most comfortable: managing a high-profile campaign. The difference this time was that his man was expected to win easily. Whether it was hubris, bad luck, poor organization, taking their eye off the ball by looking ahead to 2008, or some combination thereof, the would-be Allen juggernaut imploded, and the fallout helped topple a line of Republican dominoes that the party still is trying to right.
No one disagrees, however, that the macaca incident was the tipping point in the campaign. The obscure term derives from the Bantu word for “monkey” and has been used by French-speaking colonialists as a pejorative for natives of the Belgian Congo. Though it seems unlikely that George Allen—the tobacco-chewing son of a legendary football coach who portrays himself as a folksy everyman—would be very well-versed in either African dialects or European colonial slang, the “macaca moment” started the wrecking ball swinging, and within hours television and the Web made the blunder national news. (Two years later, a Google search for “George Allen” still has the YouTube clip in its top five results.)
Soon, stories popped up alleging that Allen had freely used more common racial epithets as a young man, and Webb’s campaign began gaining momentum. With Allen reeling, Wadhams, by most accounts—other than his own—mishandled the controversy. He was hostile with the press that had covered the incident, and—using his oft-deployed tactic of deflecting a criticism of him or his candidate back at the opposition—he rehashed an old accusation that the Webb campaign had sent out anti-Semitic flyers during the Democratic primary. He convinced Allen to delay an apology, and, once Allen finally issued his mea culpa, the campaign soon followed up with a Wadhams-penned memo to fellow GOP leaders, later leaked to the press, that all but retracted it.
Republican political operatives with ties to the Allen operation contend that the macaca debacle only exposed an already disorganized campaign. Shortly after joining the Allen team in 2005, these sources say, Wadhams froze out the Senator’s old allies, and Allen didn’t realize how isolated they were until well into 2006. Volunteers, vendors, and advertising executives who had worked with Allen complained that they’d been ignored or treated shabbily by Wadhams’ operation, and that he’d spent little time trying to get the lay of the political land in Virginia. Though the campaign was flush with money until at least late summer of 2006, some say Wadhams apportioned it unwisely, dropping $20,000 a month on Allen’s campaign headquarters, for example, while exerting little effort on the grassroots organizing—county chairs, volunteers, even signs and bumper stickers—that had been a staple of Allen’s previous runs.
This all went down while Wadhams played his customary role as master distracter, thundering around the state and bellowing at the media and his opponents. It’s always been his M.O. to do the dirty work so his boss doesn’t have to. This time, it backfired. Allen had a pre-Wadhams image as an affable, successful politician, but Wadhams had salted the earth so much that the press was in no mood for forgiveness when the macaca story broke. “[Wadhams had been] striking out and calling reporters these hideous names and being downright rude or nasty to them,” a longtime Allen associate says. “And now George Allen is getting portrayed as this mean-spirited, inconsistent political animal.”
Though Wadhams laments the entire affair, he dismisses the armchair quarterbacking as predictably nitpicky. “So often, [political consultants] like to stand in the shadows and get big checks, but they never want to take responsibility for anything,” he says. “They love to take credit when their candidate wins, but you never see them when they lose. There are very few people who put their names on the line like I do.”
It’s difficult to overstate the impact of Allen’s Waterloo. Though he lost by only 7,200 votes out of 2.36 million, his political ambitions are history. Webb’s victory gave Democrats control of the Senate and vaulted him to national prominence; he’s been discussed as a possible Cabinet member in an Obama administration. The 2006 setbacks sent Republicans scrambling to rediscover the soul of their party, and the Allen embarrassment sent Wadhams home with wishes of good-riddance from Virginia. “Senator Allen regrets the macaca incident not just because of how it’s portrayed on the Internet, but because it makes him look like somebody he’s not,” the Allen associate says. “Had he followed his instincts and not listened to Wadhams, yes, it still would’ve been out there in YouTube world, but it would be known as a silly mistake that all candidates make rather than a defining moment in the history of electronic campaigns. A lot of people are extraordinarily disappointed that Dick took someone who clearly could have been accepting the nomination to be president of the United States and destroyed his career.”
Last year, back in the friendlier confines of Colorado, Wadhams was elected as the state’s GOP chairman, running unopposed, and earlier this year Bob Schaffer drafted him to lead his pivotal Senate campaign against Mark Udall. As humbling as the Allen ordeal might have been, it hasn’t spurred Wadhams to rethink his strategies, nor has it sapped his pugilistic resolve. “I certainly haven’t taken a bunch of easy cases to bump up my win-loss record. After that pretty bitter defeat, I’m right back in the saddle in a race that could go either way,” Wadhams says. “Anybody can manage a landslide, and I could’ve made a lot more money [as a consultant], but I want to be consumed by one goal, one fight, and I want to be the person driving it. I don’t want to be a coach on the sidelines; I want to be in the game.”
To the frustration of so many voters, “the game” seems nastier than ever. Backstage managers from both sides champion their candidates while artificially demonizing the opposition, yet they chat genially before and after events, and many of them are lifelong friends. What the public sees, it turns out, often is just a show. Even Wadhams recognizes the troubling disconnect. “The [party differences] don’t mean Democrats are evil and we’re the party of goodness. It just means they have a different view of how to go about things than we do,” he says. “But I think activists on both sides get so wrapped up in the rightness of their cause that they start demonizing the other side because they have no [personal] contact with them.”
So here’s the problem: Once the performances are over, we’re left with a fired-up electorate whose disdain for the other side often borders on irrational. “What’s disturbing about Wadhams is that, to me, he comes off like this is just one big game,” says Colorado Democratic chair Pat Waak. “He does the flashy sound bites. He’s the classic spin guy. I give credit to the American public for having the discernment to see through the labels and negativity, and we’re now seeing a new group of people coming into politics who want to see this kind of change.”
That could be prescient or just wishful thinking. Voters say they want less negativity, and all the while political puppeteers keep winning elections by mud-slinging. They take a world comprised of infinite shades of gray and paint it black and white. As long as the media keeps playing along, more interested in covering how effective a campaign tactic is than in assessing its accuracy, the ones crafting the messages have little reason to modify their methods.
In the 2008 election, Wadhams has three not-so-simple tasks: helping McCain win Colorado, getting back some of the seats the GOP lost in recent state elections, and vaulting Schaffer into the U.S. Senate, not necessarily in that order. “Elections are about choices, and you’ve got to drive home the choice,” Wadhams says. “Part of that is presenting what the opponent is, and in this election it is accurate to describe Mark Udall as a ‘Boulder Liberal.’ It might not be what he would like to be described as, but it’s accurate and fair.”
Translation: Anyone who thinks a tough defeat, or a personal tragedy, or a changing political climate might force Wadhams to rethink what it all means doesn’t really know Dick. “There never was a time of soul-searching with him where he’d look me in the eye and say, ‘What’s the purpose of life?'” Bill Armstrong says. “Dick knows what the purpose of life is: At one point it was to get John Thune elected, and at another it was to get me elected. And now, it’s to get Bob Schaffer elected.”