Money pours into the Colorado Senate race

Colorado GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams says rumors of the state party’s demise are greatly exaggerated.

In fact, he told The Hill that the theory is “nuts.”

Wadhams inherited a reeling state party when he took over as chairman earlier this year, but yesterday said former Rep. Bob Schaffer’s (R) second-quarter fundraising haul is proof that Republicans are very much in play.

Schaffer, who is running for retiring Sen. Wayne Allard’s (R) seat, raised about $717,000 in six weeks, having declared to run only in mid-May.

Though he still trails Rep. Mark Udall (D), who raised $1.1 million in the quarter, Wadhams said the money proves that Schaffer is “for real.”

“I don’t think anyone could deny that $717,000 in six weeks is a phenomenal showing,” Wadhams said. “Simple math tells me Bob Schaffer had a better quarter than Mark Udall.”

Wadhams, most recently known for managing former Sen. George Allen’s (R-Va.) disastrous reelection campaign in 2006, said he took delight in seeing “liberal bloggers” changing their stories after most predicted Schaffer wouldn’t be able to raise $500,000.

“Amazingly, they were sucking air,” he said. “Well, my liberal friends, guess what? Mark Udall had an entire quarter to raise $1.1 million.”

Wadhams said state Democrats have been displaying a “sense of real cockiness and overconfidence” after winning a Senate seat and picking up two House seats in the last two elections, and taking the governorship following a divisive Republican primary.

He says such confidence is misplaced.

“The whole sense that Colorado is going Democratic is nuts,” Wadhams said. “Mark Udall does not know what’s coming after him.”

Udall’s campaign manager, Mike Melanson, certainly didn’t convey the sense that Udall thinks the race is over.

“We view Bob as a very strong candidate,” Melanson said during a brief interview with The Hill, adding that he doesn’t necessarily agree “the state is going blue.”

Melanson said that Schaffer’s fundraising report makes clear that the former congressman was “accessing the low-hanging fruit that’s out there.”

“He’s the darling of the ultra-conservative wing of his party,” Melanson said. He added that the conservative, anti-tax group Club for Growth has been fundraising on Schaffer’s behalf.

Melanson said it is tough to say what the third-quarter numbers might look like, but the “real test” for Schaffer will be avoiding the appearance that the second quarter was “an anomaly.”

Melanson said traditionally, it is easier for Republicans in the state to raise more money than Democrats because “they have more people with deeper pockets.”

Reaching into those pockets is an old ally of Wadhams’s.

Schaffer’s finance director, Janel Domenico, worked with Wadhams last year in Virginia and in South Dakota in 2004, when Sen. John Thune (R) broke fundraising records in his successful bid to unseat former Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D). She also raised money for Allard in 2002.

“I think she is the best fundraiser in the nation right now,” Wadhams said.

And because Schaffer was able to avoid a primary against former Rep. Scott McInnis — something Wadhams insists he had no part of — state party leaders have been “coalescing” around Schaffer’s candidacy.

Former Gov. Jim Owens (R) and Allard already have been supporting Schaffer, Wadhams said.