Tancredo Will Make White House Run

Tancredo will make White House run

Surrounded by the media, Rep. Tom Tancredo announced his candidacy for president on the same radio station conservative icon and former President Ronald Reagan got his broadcasting start during the Depression Era by recreating the play-by-play report on Chicago Cubs baseball games while reading from the sports ticker. Tancredo's primary issue is border security.

By M.E. Sprengelmeyer,
Rocky Mountain News
April 2, 2007

He's in.

Rep. Tom Tancredo took to the airwaves in Iowa this morning to officially join the Republican race for the White House.

He's among the longest of long-shots in a crowded GOP field, but already the Littleton Republican is declaring a victory of sorts.

The way Tancredo sees it, just by running he has won a place in the 2008 debate for his crusade against illegal immigration.

“Once you make this decision, you have to say, to both yourself and those who are supporting you, that you're in it for the long haul. You're in it to win,” Tancredo told the Rocky Mountain News. “Certainly, the fact that we'll force the debate on this issue to reach a higher level, that's great. So one way or the other I end up winning as far as I'm concerned.”

Tancredo has gained a national following as the face and outspoken voice of the hard-line, immigration reform movement.

“As I've said before, there are two kinds of people who run for office. The ones who want to be something, and the ones who want to do something,” Tancredo said. “I'm going to do something about this issue, immigration and immigration reform. It's as serious as the battles we're fighting overseas. The battles of immigration reform are a battle to define America.”

Calling for strict border control and immigration enforcement, and denouncing what he considers a degradation of American culture, has gained him fans and foes scattered all across the country. That includes pockets of fervent supporters in important presidential primary states and critics, both inside and outside the Republican Party, who view him as an extremist and fringe candidate.

He enters the presidential contest admitting he is on the “second tier” of Republican contenders vying for position behind front-runners such as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney and Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Top-tier contenders are expected to report raising tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions for the first quarter of 2007, and some are expected to spend $100 million before the GOP nominee is crowned at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul in the summer of 2008.

Tancredo's exploratory committee, “Tancredo For A Secure America,” has raised about $1.4 million so far, including tens of thousands of small contributions from an online fundraising effort.

Tancredo is undaunted by the disadvantages he faces, saying he has something that none of the other long-shots have: a built-in, national following.

“It's not like I have to create a whole new constituency,” he told the Rocky Mountain News. “I'm there.”

Over the past decade, as the immigration issue has simmered toward a boil, Tancredo has stoked the fires and built his national following largely on conservative talk radio. So that's the venue he chose to take his White House bid to the next level.

It was no coincidence that he made his first appearance with host Jan Mickelson on news radio WHO-AM in Des Moines. The station has a 50,000-watt reach across Iowa, home to the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses. It also is the station where a conservative icon, former President Ronald Reagan, got his broadcasting start during the Depression Era by recreating the play-by-play report on Chicago Cubs baseball games while reading from the sports ticker.

Tancredo, who was a regional Department of Education official under Reagan, is among the contenders vying for Reagan's old coalition of social and economic conservatives.

“Certainly, I think I'm the most consistent conservative in this race, and it goes back 30 years to my (state) House record,” Tancredo said.

Bay Buchanan, who served as Treasury Secretary under Reagan, is leading Tancredo's campaign, and she has spent more than a year introducing him to conservative, grassroots activists in early caucus or primary states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Along with a modern Internet campaign, they are employing a traditional, underdog strategy of focusing on the early states and hoping to gain momentum. That has helped propel once little-known candidates like former President Jimmy Carter, who began his campaign in Iowa known mostly as “Jimmy Who?”

The unanswered question is whether that strategy can work as it has in the past, since California and dozens of other states have moved up their primaries or caucuses to Feb. 5, 2008 just a few weeks after the Iowa caucuses. A surprisingly high showing in Iowa or New Hampshire could gain a candidate valuable, free news coverage, but most analysts say it will take tens of millions of dollars to be a serious contender in a de-facto national primary.

During the first of 20 scheduled interviews today, Tancredo told WHO-AM host Jan Mickelson that it was no coincidence he was making his announcement on talk radio shows.

“They're the ones that brought me to the party, so I'm going to dance with them,” he told Mickelson. “I'm convinced to this day that that medium has pushed the issue. It has given me a megaphone I would never have had. It allowed me to talk directly to the American people.”

In the past, Tancredo has said it would be “delusional” to think he could win the presidency. But he's setting aside his own sense of disbelief and said he's committed to mounting a serious bid. The reason, he said, is that none of the other Republicans appeared ready to make immigration reform the centerpiece of their campaigns. He sees immigration permeating every other issue from national security, to education, to health care and others.

Although he is officially committed to the race for the White House, Tancredo hinted he does not necessarily plan to give up his safely Republican 6th Congressional District if he fails to win the GOP presidential nomination. Because he has gained a national platform, he sees it as his “responsibility” to do everything he can to advance the immigration reform issue.

“When I say, 'Do everything I can,' I mean, do everything I can,” he said. “I mean to be in Congress, do what's necessary there.”