Tancredo Could Face Primary in ’08

After a fourth-place finish in the somewhat diluted Iowa Straw Poll on Saturday, Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo is indicating he will continue his presidential campaign. But the Congressman’s quest for the Republican nomination has kept him away from Washington and his constituents, and some people are wondering what that will mean for the 6th Congressional District race in 2008.

Most political watchers think Tancredo, who has represented the district since 1999, will run again for Congress, but he won’t likely announce he’s running until he backs out of the presidential race. That could happen before the end of the year, but Tancredo is banking on receiving federal matching dollars in January, which could fuel his campaign through the early caucuses.

“I won’t be surprised if he pulls a Tommy Thompson at some point,” said Kyle Saunders, a political science professor at Colorado State University. “It’ll take a while though because he wants to stay on the national stage as long as he can.”

continued…That’s fine with Paul Thompson, chair of the Douglas County Democratic Party, which is part of the 6th CD.

“His presidential campaign has really helped build up his image as a racist and a wacko,” Thompson said. “We wish him the best of luck in getting exposure for his wackiness. The more people know about him the better it is for us.”

The 6th CD is heavily Republican, and Tancredo beat Democratic challenger Bill Winter in 2006 by 19 percentage points. Thompson said he knows of one Democrat who will for sure jump into the race, but he’s sworn to secrecy.

“He’s someone who would be an excellent candidate,” Thompson said.

But a Democratic challenger won’t be Tancredo’s main problem if he stays in the presidential race into next year.

“Tancredo can’t go too long without having to face a tough primary,” said Saunders.

Other Republicans who have toyed with running are Will Armstrong, son of former Colorado Sen. Bill Armstrong, and state Sens. Tom Wiens and Ted Harvey. There’s speculation that Wiens in particular is likely to run, although it’s uncertain if he would challenge Tancredo or only get in the ring if the Congressman declined to run for re-election.

While Tancredo’s presidential campaign is increasing his exposure and name recognition, it could also potentially provide fuel to his future opponents. The Congressman, for instance, has missed 25 percent of votes in Washington this year while on the road campaigning, according to the Washington Posts’s Congressional Votes Database.

But that might not matter to voters, Saunders said.

“I don’t know that his constituents will notice until it gets brought up by the opposing campaign,” he said. “At some point, yes, that becomes an issue. But has he missed any key votes?”

And while Tancredo has reaped international wrath for suggesting that threatening to bomb Muslim holy sites would deter terrorism, that wouldn’t likely be a major problem for him in a Congressional race, Saunders said.

“I don’t think it hurts him in the sixth. He is in a very safe seat as long as he gets the party behind him again. His words will be brought up by his opponents, but will it matter? That depends on the competence of his opponents.”

The strength of any potential primary challengers will hinge partly on when – or if – Tancredo announces he’ll run for re-election. And that decision depends on what Tancredo is aiming to do.

“Is his goal to be the House member who keeps raising hell over immigration?” Saunders asked. “Or is his goal to keep immigration as an issue in the Republican presidential primary?”

Tancredo’s motives have yet to become clear, but in the meantime other Republicans in the 6th CD are waiting and watching. Several have enough support and fundraising power to be viable candidates in 2008, which could mean a tough primary – with or without Tancredo.