If Colorado Republicans didn’t understand how much trouble they were in before Tom Tancredo jumped into the governor’s race— and they did, believe me — they definitely understand it now.
While there’s some question, it seems, whether Tancredo is the official Trump-Bannon candidate, the truth is that whether or not either officially endorses him, he is sure to be a daily reminder of Bannon’s and Trump’s influence over all things Republican. And even more chilling, there’s a chance Tancredo might actually ride that to victory.
In fact, Tancredo began his race by declaring himself a near certainty to win the GOP nomination. He said it was a “done deal, almost.” He did everything but tweet it, in ALL CAPS. The only surprise was that the didn’t throw in a “Crooked Hillary” or two and maybe a “Pocahontas” for good measure, just to show how good a Trumpian he can be.
It was, of course, a ridiculous thing for Tancredo to say, which is exactly what we’ve come to expect over the years from the well-known carnival barker. You do have to like the qualifying “almost,” as if to still allow us some level of suspense. The problem for Tancredo is that pretty much every Colorado Republican this side of Cynthia Coffman — and we’re just waiting for her to check in — has already joined the governor’s race.
And this just in: No one has any idea how it will turn out.
But the reason Tancredo made his statement was not just some mindless braggadocio — although there was some element of that — but rather to set up his next line.
“I will tell you right now, this will be the ugliest campaign you’ll see,” he said, “because the other side has only one chance of beating me. … And that is to turn me into the biggest devil who ever lived, a racist, a white supremacist, all that junk.”
Now, here’s where he’s right, at least in part. It will be an ugly campaign. Not that anyone has to think Tancredo is the devil — what’s that line about the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist? — but voters will certainly be reminded of every dance he has done with white nationalists, anti-Muslims, alt-righters, Breitbartians and anti-immigrants (undocumented and otherwise). And he’ll remind them himself, as he threatens to defund so-called sanctuary cites while accusing those who run them of being accessories to murder, rape and every other bit of Tancredista demagoguery he tosses into the pot.
And he has already told us the founding principle upon which he has based this run: that there wasn’t a Republican in the race bold enough to defend VDARE, the white nationalist group of which Tancredo was recently a board member, when John Suthers, Colorado Springs’ very Republican mayor, made clear the group wasn’t welcome in his town after what happened in Charlottesville.
VDARE’s politics are easy to find. They post them on their website for all to peruse. One of the more often-cited articles asks whether we need more Hispanics. The answer: “…(W)e appear to have become dissatisfied with only a black underclass, and decided to establish a Hispanic underclass as well.” If that’s how Tancredo wants to run his campaign, well, he’ll certainly get his chance.
The dangerous question Tancredo poses is whether he represents the Republican Party in Colorado. It’s a near certainty that he doesn’t represent the views of a majority of voters in Colorado. Or at least he never has before.
Tancredo has been around forever, of course. He even ran for president once, as all trivia buffs know. Since retiring from the U.S. House, Tancredo will be making his third run for governor. In the previous two, Mr. Done Deal did not win the Republican nomination. In one, he didn’t even run as a Republican, but made a third party bid to stop the bizarre GOP nominee, Dan Maes, who — to cite one example — thought that Denver’s bike sharing program was part of a plot for the United Nations to take over Colorado.
You may remember Tancredo’s High Noon showdown with Maes, and his park-bench diplomacy in what was basically a Marx Brothers production of a campaign. You may also remember that Tancredo, who figured he had to destroy the Republican Party to save it, received only 37 percent of the vote despite the fact that John Hickenlooper, who did win, never once called Tancredo the devil, a racist or a white supremacist. In fact, Hick never ran a single negative ad againt him, which suggests Tancredo can be thrashed in clean campaigns as well as dirty ones.
That was 2010. In 2014, Tancredo rejoined the Republican Party, which he has quit periodically, and went all in to chalk up 27 percent of the vote in the primary, falling short of campaign whirlwind and now also two-time loser, Bob Beauprez.
So Tancredo, who recently rejoined the Republicans once again, is hardly a sure thing. But he is a sure threat — not to Democrats, who are openly rooting for him, but to Republicans, who have won the governor’s seat in Colorado only twice since 1974, both times by Bill Owens. Trump, you’ll remember, lost Colorado by five points in 2016. According to the Real Clear Politics polling average, Trump’s approval rating is just shy of 39 percent. In Colorado, I’m sure it’s even lower.
But none of that will bother Tancredo, who will never back away from being Tancredo. You don’t have to take my word. The Indy’s Corey Hutchins dropped by for a recent Tancredo showing at a Colorado Springs gun club where the candidate was seen proudly posing with an “All Rifles Matter” t-shirt. Let the campaign begin.