A Denver Post article about congressional district candidate Rick O'Donnell's efforts to distance himself from President Bush failed to fully identify Dick Wadhams, a Republican national operative who serves as Virginia Sen. George Allen's campaign manager. The Post simply referred to Wadhams as “a longtime Colorado political strategist.”
In an August 13 Denver Post article about 7th Congressional District candidate Rick O'Donnell's (R) efforts to distance himself from President Bush, staff reporter Karen E. Crummy quoted “longtime Colorado political strategist” Dick Wadhams praising O'Donnell. Crummy failed to identify Wadhams as a Republican national operative who served with O'Donnell in Gov. Bill Owens's administration and has been a key figure in numerous Republican campaigns for the U.S. Senate.
After reporting that “Republican congressional candidate Rick O'Donnell has raised $1.9 million, thanks in part to President Bush and officials from his administration,” Crummy noted that “some candidates are running ads that not only don't refer to the president but also don't even mention that they are Republicans.” Crummy then reported: “So far, says longtime Colorado political strategist Dick Wadhams, O'Donnell has deftly navigated the political waters. The former head of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education did not have a primary and has been able to raise a substantial amount of money.”
At no point in her article did Crummy suggest that Wadhams was anything other than a neutral observer.
As reported in a November 4, 2004, Rocky Mountain News article by Lynn Bartels, as a campaign manager, Wadhams helped win campaigns for Owens in 1998, Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) in 1996 and 2002, and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) in 2004. Wadhams worked with O'Donnell as Owens's spokesperson during the time O'Donnell served as the governor's policy director. Wadhams went to work as Owens's spokesperson after running the Owens campaign in 1998. According to a November 14, 2001, News story, Wadhams left the Owens administration in 2001 to run the second Allard campaign. The Associated Press reported in a December 3, 1998, article that O'Donnell was named director of the “Office of Policy and Initiatives” at the governor's office. He left that position in 2002 for his first run in the 7th Congressional District.
Currently, Wadhams is serving as campaign manager for Sen. George Allen (R-VA). A June 10, 2005, Slate.com article titled "Dick Wadhams -- Karl Rove's Heir Apparent" noted that "[o]utside his home state, Allen is a relative unknown, but he's generating plenty of interest among party apparatchiks. In an April poll in the National Journal, pollsters, consultants, and media pundits picked Allen as the No. 1 choice to head the 2008 GOP ticket."
In fact, the Slate article reported that Wadhams and White House senior adviser Rove were “two operatives ... who have known each other since their days in College Republicans.” Moreover, the article said that when Thune chose Wadhams to run his campaign against then-Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (SD), he “heeded the advice of the Bush White House” by hiring Wadhams. The article further reported that Rove and Wadhams “run similar campaigns” and that “Rove may have figured that recommending Wadhams for the South Dakota race would be the next best thing to taking Daschle down himself.” The News reported in its November 14, 2001, article that in 2000, “Wadhams took a two-month leave [from Owens's office] to successfully boost the sagging re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Montana.”
Crummy identified other sources in her story, including Sean Tonner, a “Republican political strategist”; Amy Walter, a “senior editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report”; and Mike Feeley, a “Perlmutter campaign advisor and a Democrat.” Feeley was Democratic leader of the Colorado State Senate.
From the August 13 Denver Post article:
During the past eight months, Republican congressional candidate Rick O'Donnell has raised $1.9 million, thanks in part to President Bush and officials from his administration.
But as he heads into the homestretch of one of the most competitive congressional races in the country, O'Donnell doesn't want voters to think he suffers from blind loyalty.
Dogged by low poll numbers and voter dissatisfaction with Washington politics, Bush and members of the Republican-controlled Congress are increasingly becoming a liability in the midterm elections, say both political observers and politicians.
In an effort to avoid the “rubber stamp” label, some candidates are running ads that not only don't refer to the president but also don't even mention that they are Republicans. For instance, U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, a New York Republican and head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, has a 30-second TV ad that never mentions his party.
The president, however, is still the most powerful Republican fundraiser in the country and is supported by many voters whom candidates don't want to alienate.
“It's tough. The president is the leader of the party, but some of his positions aren't very popular right now,” said Republican political strategist Sean Tonner, president of Phase Line Strategies. “Rick needs to keep the Republican base happy but show the unaffiliated voters that he's his own man.”
So far, says longtime Colorado political strategist Dick Wadhams, O'Donnell has deftly navigated the political waters. The former head of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education did not have a primary and has been able to raise a substantial amount of money.