Dick Wadhams' Plan: Paint Colorado Red
First, a little bipartisan love from Dick Wadhams' erstwhile adversary and counterpart, Democrat Mike Stratton.
On a more serious note, Wadhams' intention to return Colorado to the reliably conservative and Republican state it had been for the past decade before the 2006 election appears to be a daunting task, and the message should be simple, he says:
"The campaign and the candidate have to continue to state who they are and what they stand for," Wadhams said. "And they have to be able to do it in terms the voters can understand and rally around."Seems simple and sounds like common sense. Unfortunately, the past two election cycles have seen Republican candidates either unable or unwilling to take charge in framing the debate or creating an image of what they, and ultimately Republicans, stand for, instead allowing their Democratic opponents to control the messages being heard.
With Wadhams around, this will be much more difficult. Democrats interested in attacking Wadhams--note, not his message, but the standard ad hominem attacks--have called him the heir to Karl Rove, or charged him with all sorts of mudslinging tactics, as if this were something that only GOP candidates committed. From some of the descriptions, one might wonder if in fact his name was actually "Darth" Wadhams. The brilliance of Wadhams comes from keeping Democratic operatives continuously focused on him, rather than the candidate they oppose and their own message.
The importance of staying on message, as former Sen. George Allen learned all too well, or at the very least coming up with a coherent presentation, as failed gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez found out, can mean the difference between a successfully executed campaign and, well, becoming the butt of electoral humor. Gov. Bill Ritter's catchy "Colorado Promise" campaign slogan combined with Beauprez's primary-inspired "Both Ways Bob" moniker provided enough cover for the former DA, shifting all attention onto the Republican candidate in an election year when anyone with an -R after their name was automatically a prime target.
Wadhams' strategy worked well in both of Sen. Wayne Allard's campaigns. Tom Strickland, Allard's Democratic opponent, faced the inescapable "Toxic Tom" and "Lawyer-Lobbyist" appellations that kept him on the defensive and brought Allard to victory. Presented as an ordinary veterinarian and citizen legislator, Allard was able to craft his own message for Colorado voters.
Proof of Wadhams' success? Take a look at former Rep. Scott McInnis, who faces the rhetorically similar "McLobbyist" (he and Strickland work for the same firm) from his Democratic opponents. Or the fact that the state GOP rolled out the red carpet to draft him for state chair. At the very least, the amount of ire from the other side of the aisle should be a great indication of just how formidable Wadhams is believed to be.