Tough Run Of Luck

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April 11, 2008 12:22 p.m.

2004 was a great year for Dick Wadhams, hardball GOP campaign operative and longtime pal of Karl Rove. Four years ago he was able to pick off Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), with his candidate, former congressman and now Senator John Thune (R-SD). Not long after, my friend Alex Starr wrote that Wadhams might be Rove’s heir apparent.

But the last two cycles not been so kind.

By early 2006, Wadhams was Chief of Staff to then-Sen. George Allen (R-VA). From that gig he took a leave of absence to run Allen’s 2006 reelection campaign. And that was a choice assignment since Allen had an inside track for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. So, get Allen reelected to the senate, then get him nominated and elected president and then decamp to some innocuously titled job at the White House to pack the executive branch with political cronies and good Allens.

Of course, it was not to be. Rather than president, Allen became the iconic political roadkill of viral video on the information superhighway.

This year Wadhams has resurfaced managing the campaign of none other than Colorado’s Bob Schaffer (R), the de facto nominee for the seat of retiring Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO). Schaffer is the sharpie who for no apparent reason extolled the merits of the guest labor system in the Mariana Islands in an interview about immigration policy he gave to the Denver Post.

As we’ve noted over the last few days, the Marianas program has a rather poor record — what, with beatings, forced abortions, child sex trafficking and so forth. From a political perspective, though, almost as damaging is that the Marianas (aka the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) were deeply entwined with the Jack Abramoff scandal. So it really does seem like an unforced political error of almost Macaca-like proportions.

It’s even better for Schaffer since in 1999 he went on one Abramoff’s infamous Marianas Islands junkets, with pictures, no less.

Now, here at TPM we’ve been we’ve been wondering, setting aside Schaffer’s fondness for third-world labor practices, what could he have been thinking to have walked straight into this mess and given The Wad such a headache?

Our best guess is that Schaffer basically missed the Abramoff scandal, at least compared to how people experienced it in Washington. Schaffer was elected in 1996 and term-limited himself after the end of his third term, leaving DC in early 2003. He then tried and failed to get the Republican senate nomination in 2004. There is something called newspapers and the internet. But it just doesn’t seem to have registered with him how radioactive Abramoff and his clients had become.

For now Schaffer seems to have gone to ground, refusing any interviews or comments to the press on his ties to the Marianas crew or his desire to imitate their immigration system, leaving it to Wadhams to speak for him and clean up his mess.

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