Tancredo Plots Immigration Reform 2008 Campaign

November 22, 2005: Tancredo Plots Immigration Reform 2008 Campaign

Tancredo Plots Immigration Refor, 2008 Campaign
By MEGHAN CLYNE – Staff Reporter of the Sun
November 22, 2005

WASHINGTON – As Republicans look to the 2008 primaries in search of a candidate whose credentials and personality can triumph over Senator Clinton, one potential candidate has no expectation of winning on the basis of his personality or record – or of winning at all, for that matter. Instead, Rep. Thomas Tancredo, a Republican of Colorado, is hoping that his participation in Iowa's caucuses and early primaries will bring a victory for his signature issue: immigration reform.

He isn't waiting until 2008. Mr. Tancredo, 59, who has earned a national reputation for being an advocate for stricter border controls on Capitol Hill, has yet to make a firm declaration of his candidacy. But he is already making campaign stops from coast to coast and writing a book about immigration, tentatively titled “In Mortal Danger.” It could serve as Mr. Tancredo's campaign platform and will be available in June, the congressman told The New York Sun yesterday.

In addition to laying the groundwork for his own bid, Mr. Tancredo is headlining campaign events for others who share his immigration philosophy. Reached yesterday by phone in Orange County, Calif., Mr. Tancredo was campaigning for the founder of the Minuteman Project, James Gilchrist, who is running for the congressional seat vacated by the new chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Christopher Cox.

Mr. Tancredo has also visited New Hampshire and South Carolina. Bay Buchanan, who is the sister and adviser of another opponent of illegal immigration and former presidential candidate, Patrick Buchanan, has helped Mr. Tancredo make contacts in such early primary states, the congressman said. This weekend, Mr. Tancredo was in Alta, Iowa, on his fourth visit to the crucial caucus state in the last six months.

Mr. Tancredo has said that he will throw his hat into the Iowa ring if no other Republican emerges who will “include immigration in their platform … and do so with some degree of vigor, “the congressman said yesterday. So far, Mr. Tancredo said a former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich – who wrote in a recent report for the Center for Immigration Studies that immigrants' dual citizenship posed an “insidious challenge” – has come the closest to being satisfactorily strong on the issue.

Yet Mr. Tancredo appears to enjoy some advantages Mr. Gingrich and his likely 2008 competitors do not, principally the support of an influential Iowa Republican, Rep. Steven King. Mr. King is one of 91 members of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, of which Mr. Tancredo is founder and chairman.

“Tom Tancredo needs to keep coming to Iowa,” Mr. King said. “I want him on the stage in this debate.”

Messrs. Tancredo and King, and the executive director of the Iowa Republican Party, Cullen Sheehan, indicated yesterday that Mr. Tancredo will have a natural base of support among 2008 caucus-goers.

While Iowa is further removed from the issue of illegal immigration than border states such as California and Arizona, Mr. Tancredo said, it has been surprisingly receptive to his message of ending illegal immigration and reducing the number of legal migrants permitted to enter the country. His Iowa audiences, the congressman said, “are as concerned about it as any group I've ever spoken to in Arizona.”

Mr. Sheehan said that illegal immigration is a matter of importance to Iowa's caucus-goers, saying that most “want people to obey the law, and they want our government to uphold the laws we have.” Mr. King said jobs in the agricultural industry were also a factor, citing as an example the Farmland Foods packing plant in Dennison, Iowa. Ten years ago, Mr. King said, eight Hispanics worked at the facility compared to 850 today.

Iowans, however, are focused mostly on national security: “How can a nation have a border they don't defend?” Mr. King said. “If it's not really a border, then you're not really a nation.”

Mr. King said he also anticipated Mr. Tancredo's message to resonate with caucus-goers because of his focus on the cultural effects of massive immigration. Mr. Tancredo said that today's immigrants decline to become Americans, leading to a “balkanized” society. Immigration, Mr. Tancredo said, fuels and reinforces the divisive multiculturalist ideologies propagated by American elites in academia, the press, and politics.

In fact, it was outrage at multiculturalism in American schools that first brought Mr. Tancredo's attention to immigration. The congressman is a former junior high school teacher, and the schools' insistence on bilingual education and hostility toward America in textbooks and classrooms, combined with his reading of Arthur Schlesinger's “The Disuniting of America” in 1992, served as his road-to-Damascus moment on the need for immigration reform, Mr. Tancredo said.

Mr. Tancredo, a Denver native, left teaching to take a seat in Colorado's House of Representatives in 1976, and later served in the federal Department of Education under Presidents Reagan and Bush. In 1998, Mr. Tancredo was elected to Congress.

After founding the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus in 1999, Mr. King said, Mr. Tancredo's “credibility is going up as the American public puts pressure on other members of Congress” on the matter of border security. When Mr. Tancredo first introduced amendments to restrict immigration, Mr. King said, the measures would receive 20 to 25 votes. “Three years ago, that same amendment got 60 to 70 votes. Now, that same amendment will get 100 or 110.”

If Mr. Tancredo's star is rising among American voters and in the House, he may not be winning friends in the circles of Republican leadership.

The editor of RealClearPolitics.com, John McIntyre, said yesterday that Mr. Tancredo's candidacy poses “a real problem” for the GOP in 2008.

While the Colorado congressman's message might win votes as a hot-button issue in 2008 and 2012, Mr. McIntyre said, demographic trends suggested the position might prove electoral poison in 2016 and beyond as the American electorate becomes increasingly Hispanic, and if the Tancredo platform paints national Republicans as “anti-immigrant.”

For Republicans to succeed in quieting Mr. Tancredo, satisfying the base's yearning for a serious immigration policy, and to avoid being tarred as nativist, it would be necessary for the GOP to nominate a popular candidate with a reputation for being a moderate-such as Senator McCain, of Arizona, or Mayor Giuliani – who would then embrace the issue in the 2008 campaign.

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