Suffice it to say that, when political giant-killer Dick Wadhams (the engineer behind John Thune’s upset win over Tom Daschle in 2002) took the reigns of George Allen’s 2006 re-election campaign, he was expecting a far different race than the one he got. Known for his blunt, take-no-prisoners style and willingness to go on the attack, Wadhams has been forced by circumstances (hint: “macaca”) to retool the senator’s campaign—muting Allen, while increasing the profile of his well-liked wife, Susan. As the campaign enters the homestretch, we quizzed him about the state of play.
C-VILLE: Most polls have Allen ahead, at least by a few points. Are you comfortable with your position going into the final weeks?
Dick Wadhams: Never comfortable. Never comfortable. In this race, we will be campaigning as hard as we can, both out of this headquarters, and with Senator Allen traveling across Virginia. So we are not comfortable, and won’t be until we’re declared the winner.
A recently leaked National Republican Congressional Committee internal document describes the Virginia Senate race as “Leaning Republican; if there’s a wave, [Allen] could be in trouble.” Do you think a “Democratic wave” is likely this cycle?
There might be one, but it’s immaterial to us, because we know what we have to do in Virginia. We also know that Virginians know George Allen, and they know he’s been successful as both their governor and U.S. senator. That’s what will matter on election day, not what’s going on across the nation.
How do you think the widespread reporting of Allen’s “macaca” comment affected his electoral chances? It seems like, in some quarters, there’s been a sympathetic backlash against the saturation coverage.
I think voters did see that as some “piling on”—and that is a term used by The Washington Post ombudsman to describe their coverage of that situation. Senator Allen made a mistake, and he acknowledged it, but I do think there was a little bit of piling on.
Earlier this year, there was all kinds of talk about George Allen running for president in 2008. Do you think that’s still a likely scenario?
I’ve only been focused on November 7, 2006. That’s the only thing that matters.