I expected more from Dick Wadhams. But the slumping Rove wannabe who returned to the scene of his star-making 2004 crime to work for Mike Rounds made nary a ping on our political radar until last week, when the South Dakota Republican Party announced that Wadhams was leaving Team Rounds to consult for the state party on all of its candidates' campaigns.

If Wadhams did anything to earn the $3,500 a month that Rounds was paying him, we didn't hear about it. Rounds marched easily to primary victory amid four opponents who could not muster the money or organization necessary to beat the frontrunner. Mr. Kallis sees Wadhams's services as equally "superfluous" to good GOP fortunes across the ticket in November and puzzles over the SDGOP's motives in transferring Wadhams to their wing:

Are the Republicans so flush with cash that they feel the need to spend some just for the sake of spending? Perhaps Wadhams is demanding a sinecure because he believes he was not properly rewarded in 2004 and the Republicans are obliging him. Neither rationale, however, seems to be one a fiscally conservative party would consider.

Perhaps party leaders are worried about some scandal coming to the fore, but Rounds, the person most likely to be harmed by known imbroglios, is in a four-way race and doesn't need to worry about capturing 50%. Is this an effort to marginalize the party's right wing? Wadhams history with the tea party is complicated to say the least [Leo Kallis, "Wadhams Hire Prompts Curiosity," The Displaced Plainsman, 2014.06.30].

I have no firm answers to Kallis's questions, just some possible scenarios that we can test for plausibility:

  1. Rounds and Wadhams thought victory in 2014 would be more difficult. They braced for full-on war through November. But outside conservative threats never materialized. Rounds scaled back his fundraising goals, cruised over his primary opponents unscathed, and realized, with some embarrassment, that he really didn't need Wadhams's services. Not wanting to lose his résumé rebuilder, Wadhams asked if he could expand his portfolio in South Dakota instead of having to swing into job hunt mode nationwide. The SDGOP obliged.
  2. Rounds and Wadhams had a dust-up. That 55% primary vote total was less than he thought he was entitled to; he wanted 81% like Daugaard got. Rounds came out of both debates kicking in chairs and knocking down tables because he felt Wadhams didn't prep him and his glass jaw for even the few punches his opponents landed. (Dammit, Dick! I wanted a coronation, not a campaign!) Tired of Rounds's entitlement whining, Wadhams asked for an out, and the SDGOP, trying to prevent any fallout that would make Mike grumpier, obliged.
  3. It's all mind games: Rounds and Wadhams orchestrated this move to say to Rick Weiland, Larry Pressler, and Gordon Howie, "You guys are so insignificant, we're paring down the campaign staff." As a bonus mind game, Wadhams gets to make Dems across the ticket, and maybe even some local candidates thinking about jumping in to replace Democratic placeholders in legislative races, nervous: The state GOP has Dick Wadhams to sic on me in our measly Legislative race? No way am I getting into that! And the games cost the SDGOP nothing, because Rounds continues to pay Wadhams's salary via campaign finance transfers from Rounds for Senate to the SDGOP.
  4. We heard nothing because Wadhams has got nothing left. Rounds realized this early on, but the need to produce nothing but happy headlines and maybe a contract clause kept him from pulling the trigger. Then Rob or Justin or somebody came up with the idea of transferring Wadhams to party HQ to get the deadweight off their ship.

Whatever the case, we'll have Dick Wadhams to kick around for another four months. While my urge for blog fodder aches for more, my desire for civil, policy-oriented discourse hopes the remaining four months will be as absent of Wadhams's overt intrusions as the last thirteen.