The thunderstorms and rains this spring along the Front Range are helping to green and revive the landscape, but one thing that may not weather those storms and regain life again this season are the vestiges of Tom Tancredo’s political career.
Once spoken of as a semi-legitimate outsider contender in presidential races, the former congressman and one-time Constitution Party candidate for governor is in danger of sitting on the sidelines too long as the warm-up for this November’s general election plays out.
Tancredo was MIA last Thursday as Republican candidates for governor Mike Kopp, Scott Gessler and Bob Beauprez all joined 9News’ Kyle Clark and Brandon Rittiman for a debate.
As the TV station relayed to viewers, Tancredo’s campaign told them he would not spend any of his precious time to join his fellow Republicans on such a prominent media stage. As Tancredo’s people put it, their candidate would “only debate John Hickenlooper.”
While it’s natural for a candidate to try and avoid muddying themselves before a tough general election fight, it’s also very difficult to even secure your spot on that November ballot with this kind of hubris. It’s not taking the ball and going home, it’s assuming the competition doesn’t start until you’ve arrived — perhaps you recall his “Game on” announcement after announcing his entry into the race?
As it were, Beauprez and Kopp would proceed to make strong cases for themselves as, respectively, the most-moderate and most-conservative candidates in the race.
It’s not the strangest turn of events on Tancredo’s career — not by a long shot — but it certainly appears to be the final one. Short of sabotaging Colorado Republicans again by accepting a third party’s nomination (as he did in 2010) or taking a stab at Michael Bennet’s U.S. Senate seat in 2016, this appears to be the final campaign for Tancredo.
It was almost a year ago that this ultimate salvo was launched. Tancredo made the rounds on his motorcycle to chat with Denver Post Editor Greg Moore about a variety of federal issues — immigration, NSA wiretapping, etc. — that don’t always register among the day-to-day concerns of our state’s chief executive. To his credit, Tancredo was on the right side of history when it came to passage of Amendment 64, even if we had to hear tired lines about the “nanny state” each time.
Elsewhere in this go-round, Tancredo has enthusiastically hopped on the bandwagon when Colorado Republicans bashed Michael Bloomberg, shared countless photos of his grandsons on Facebook and made himself seen and heard in his semi-charming ways at enough local Tea Party events to petition into the race.
As much as some might try to pigeonhole the man as a one-issue (immigration) candidate for the past decade, Tancredo maintained nuance and enough charisma to keep himself in the forefront of voters’ minds, for better or worse. He was among the top GOP candidates this time out to capitalize on Gov. Hickenlooper’s regrettable decision to grant a death-row reprieve for Nathan Dunlap. Like her or not, Tancredo garnered the powerful endorsement of national conservative pundit Michelle Malkin.
When an opportunity to score political points presented itself, Tancredo was in the paint. Even as the controversy surrounding the Bureau of Land Management and the Cliven Bundy ranch in Nevada has boiled, Tancredo has aligned himself with the embattled rancher, even after Bundy’s racist rants were published on YouTube and in The New York Times, prompting numerous Republican leaders nationwide to quickly distance themselves.
As often as various Republicans in recent years have held themselves up as political mavericks, Tancredo has walked the proverbial walk. Thus, there’s plenty more to discuss about the man — his time as head of the Independence Institute, his crusade for term limits and eventual decision to serve a fourth term in Congress after pledging to call it quits after three — but there’s barely enough space here for a requiem to his latest and likely last campaign, much less a full political obituary.
So for now, let it be said that Colorado politics have been entirely more interesting thanks to Tom Tancredo, and should this be the beginning of the end, it’s been a hell of a ride.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Harrop at email@example.com.