Tancredo’s Gambit

I disagree with Tom Tancredo over many things, particularly abortion and immigration. Moreover, his scorched-earth style often makes me cringe. But this is not about Tom Tancredo. This is about the future of the Republican Party.

Tancredo, the former Congressman and (before that) president of the Independence Institute, said he will enter the race for governor if the winner of the Republican primary — Scott McInnis or Dan Maes — does not drop out.

Here is Tancredo’s pledge:

Regardless of the outcome of the Primary election on August 10, on August 11 the winner must agree to remove himself from consideration if polling on that date shows that he is losing the race for Governor. If either or both choose to ignore this request, and do not make a public commitment to this end no later than noon on Monday, July 26, I will announce on that day that I will seek the nomination of the American Constitution Party for Governor of Colorado.

Tancredo told the Denver Post that he has discussed the move with the third party’s leaders, and the Post suggests that the law would allow it.

I agree with Tancredo that neither McInnis, who has been hit with a major plagiarism scandal, nor Maes, who has zero relevant experience, has a chance of beating Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper this fall. Moreover, speaking for myself, I believe that, even if McInnis or Maes managed to get elected, he would be an embarrassment to the state and people of Colorado.

Unfortunately, my read is that both McInnis and Maes are running primarily because they want to see themselves as governor, not because they want to live in a state with a great governor. Thus, I don’t think they will drop out. (I just received a release from Maes saying he will not drop out of the race.)

Tancredo’s ultimatum creates a strategic difficulty for McInnis and Maes: neither wants to be the first to pledge to drop out.

Ideally, Tancredo would agree to enter the race only if the primary winner did not drop out (and was losing in the polls). But I suspect that Tancredo has to sign on with the Constitution Party prior to that. If not, if Tancredo can wait to enter the race until after the primary vote, then he should immediately modify his ultimatum accordingly.

Here’s the problem: Tancredo’s ultimatum makes it practically impossible for McInnis or Maes to be the first to drop out. If one of them pledges to drop out, the other will pounce: “He’s weak! He knows he can’t win! So vote for me in the primary.” And what if the polls show the GOP victor winning after the primary? A candidate who has already pledged to potentially drop out has signaled to his supporters that the campaign is not to be taken seriously.

Tancredo has forced McInnis and Maes into a staring contest, and each is mortified to blink first.

Thus, it seems likely that Tancredo will enter the race, joining the Republican winner of the primary.

Of course, at that point, the Republican candidate could still drop out on the condition that Tancredo also dropped out. That would open the door to somebody like Mark Hillman entering the race. Hillman could unify the party, attract independent voters, and maybe even beat Hickenlooper.

So, in the long run, despite Party Chair Dick Wadham’s badmouthing of him, Tancredo might be offering the Republican Party its only serious chance of winning the governor’s race this fall.

In light of the gender allegations in the U.S. Senate race, perhaps I should restrict my comments about Tancredo to the following: He has certainly got himself a gigantic pair of cowboy boots.



Ben DeGrow July 23, 2010 at 12:03 PM
I can only add that Mark Hillman is unequivocally stated he has no interest in this race, and knowing Mark, I am very inclined to believe him. Sad, because he would be a vast improvement over Scott, Dan or Tom.

David K. Williams, Jr. July 23, 2010 at 4:16 PM
Tancredo, third parties and a failed process http://tinyurl.com/22qnm52

Ari July 23, 2010 at 4:24 PM
David’s piece, linked above, begins, “Competition is always good. Always.” Obviously that is false. Bureaucrats compete for bigger budgets. Shady businesses compete for subsidies. Interests groups compete for special advantages. Gangs compete for turf. Another term for many national competitions is war. One problem with Libertarians it that regularly strip terms out of the philosophical context that gives them meaning.