Are RNC Woes Filtering Down To State Party Level?

Michele Norris talks to Dick Wadhams, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, about the recent Republican National Committee spending troubles, and the impact of those troubles at the state party level.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

The Republican National Committee is struggling with its own brand issue this week. The RNC's chief of staff, Ken McKay, stepped down yesterday - a week after it was discovered that the party had spent nearly $2,000 entertaining donors at a topless nightclub. That was followed by another departure. Political strategist Curt Anderson said his firm would no longer work with the RNC. And Chairman Michael Steele is facing more criticism for remarks he's made since the scandal and for his style overall. Some say it's too lavish.

We wondered how all the tumult is affecting party operatives across the country, and in particular in states with contested mid-term races. So we called on Dick Wadhams, he's chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, to find out what the mood is in his state.

Mr. DICK WADHAMS (Chairman, Colorado Republican Party): Colorado Republicans, by and large, are much more focused on what is going on in our state capitol and also the Congress of late, and are not terribly concerned about whats going on at the Republican National Committee.

When you have a health care monstrosity, as was passed and signed into law a few weeks ago by President Obama and the Democratic majorities in Congress, I think that far outstrips any concern about the Republican National Committee.

NORRIS: Is it impossible, though, to completely ignore whats going on at the RNC? You were quoted as saying that - where the fundraising scandals are concerned - you were quoted as saying that sometimes you have to spend money to raise money. But are you comfortable with these kinds of expenditures: A Hollywood nightclub featuring topless dancers wearing or wielding bondage gear? You're all right with that?

Mr. WADHAMS: Clearly that was an inappropriate expenditure that was made by a incompetent staff person at the RNC who should have known better. That person has been removed, that expenditure has been taken care of.

I think a lot of the criticism of Michael Steele is not warranted, in terms of his overall leadership of the RNC. I mean, look at it, we won big elections for New Jersey governorship, Virginia governorship, and the Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat just a few months ago. And the Democrats are actually bracing themselves for huge losses, maybe even losing their majorities.

And so, I think we need to keep all this in perspective. Has Michael Steele made some missteps? Of course he has. But he's taken the steps to correct that situation in California. Has he made some statements publicly that he probably shouldnt have made? Thats probably right. But on the other hand, I think we need to look at the bigger picture, not only the success we've had as Republicans but also what Democrats have been doing to the country lately.

NORRIS: If Michael Steele were to call you - you're very well-known within the party - if he were to give you a call and say, Mr. Wadhams, I need a little bit of advice, what would you tell him?

Mr. WADHAMS: I know Chairman Steele well. And I would say, Mr. Chairman, get the act cleaned up within the headquarters itself, so that incidents like that in California dont happen again. And more importantly, be careful about what you say. I did not agree with Chairman Steele's characterization that his race had something to do with the criticism he was getting. And I dont think he should say things like. And he's had other times when he's said things that have gotten him into trouble.

He is a brilliant, articulate man and I know that he's an effective spokesman for our party. And so I would just ask him to step back and be more thoughtful in what he says. And I know that he can lead us to victory in 2010.

NORRIS: What has to happen to justify him staying in that seat? If the party wins some seats, does that mean that he should stay or should they take a second look and perhaps replace him?

Mr. WADHAMS: You know, we'll see the Wednesday morning after the election, as the dust clears and how many seats we've won across the nation. And ultimately that'll be a judgment for the Republican National Committee to make in January of 2011. What standard will be applied, how many seats we have to make - have to win, we'll have to wait and see.

NORRIS: Mr. Wadhams, thank you very much for your time.

Mr. WADHAMS: Thank you.

NORRIS: That's Dick Wadhams. He's chairman of the Colorado Republican Party.

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