Tancredo’s Pitch

Many in the major media treat Tom Tancredo like some sort of loon. Many voters know only his views on immigration. He’s running on the goofy minor American Constitution ticket. So why should anybody take seriously his run for governor of Colorado?

Listen to his presentation last night at Liberty On the Rocks. In his impromptu presentation lasting over half an hour, he was relaxed, confident, humorous, personable, and masterful. In other words, he is everything that the two Republican candidates are not.

Talking to Scott McInnis feels like talking to a pull-string toy. Pull the string, and you’ll get some random, often incoherent comment that usually contains some variant of the phrase, “jobs, jobs, jobs!” Plus he often comes across as angry. Dan Maes has the heart but not the experience or ideological depth (or, apparently, much talent for figures).

Tancredo has the experience; as he reminded the crowd, he’s served not only in state government but in the Congress. But he also has the intellectual independence. Before he was a politician, he led the Independence Institute, and since then he has remained committed to his ideas. He has been a politician, but he has not become a politician. (Or, in terms the Constitution Party might better appreciate, he was in Washington, D.C. but not of it.)

Tancredo might be easy to hate when he’s quoted in the newspapers, but he’s easy to love in person. He’s just a fun guy. I find him mesmerizing, and I usually disagree with his policies. In the “who’d I like to share a beer with” charts, Tancredo easily competes with John Hickenlooper (the Democrat). (Now I’d LOVE to sit down with the two of them and share a few beers, with my camera rolling of course.)

Just consider how Tancredo handled the thee major questions he took, all hostile. I asked him, given his controversial positions on immigration and the so-called “personhood” measure (which he endorses), how he can craft a message that will resonate with mainstream voters (see 6:17 of the third video). He didn’t quite answer the way I hoped he would; I was trying to draw out the other issues he’d emphasize in his campaign. But the answer he gave brimmed with heart and integrity:

“There we go back to this whole idea of what can I say to make people vote for me, even if I have to tell them a lie. I’m not gunna. And if you disagree with me basically on these issues, you will not. That’s okay. I am not happy about the possibility of winning an election based on an nuanced campaign. I will leave that to other candidates.”

As he was leaving, Tancredo also agreed to talk on camera about education, and his comments are delightful, even though he knows I seriously disagree with him on other issues.

Tancredo has been through the political fire and taken it well. He can handle himself.

In the fourth video, Tancredo replies to Elliot Fladen’s pointed questions on immigration. Fladen rightly worries about Tancredo’s protectionist justifications for immigration restrictions. (Fladen also doubts that Tancredo’s statements of August 4 square with his previous statements on the matter.) Yet Tancredo handled the question well and at least made me believe he knows the relevant criticisms and has grappled with them.

Tancredo also comes off well responding to a question about breaking his term-limits pledge (something that has never bothered me).

I no longer believe that Tancredo will seriously consider dropping out of the race, even if the Republican winner of the primary vote drops out and the party picks a better replacement. Tancredo told me that signing up for a run with the Constitution Party and then dropping out wouldn’t be the right thing to do (though I don’t recall his exact phrasing). Plus, I think he really enjoys his political freedom and deeply believes in his new party’s basic themes. (His campaign manager is Bay Buchanan, sister of Pat, who has worked with Tancredo before on the immigration issue.)

Tancredo is running for governor because he believes in his cause and he has the political strength to fight for it. Allies and adversaries do well to respect him.