Tancredo Exits ’08 Race; Backs Romney Campaign

Tancredo exits '08 race, backs Romney campaign

By Stephen Dinan
December 21, 2007

“My fear is that if I were to stay in this race my votes could be the factor in handing victory to a pro-amnesty politician,” said Colorado Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo.

Rep. Tom Tancredo yesterday ended his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination and endorsed former opponent Mitt Romney's candidacy.

The Colorado Republican, whose candidacy was almost completely defined by his outspoken opposition to illegal entry into the U.S., said so many other candidates have taken up the issue that he feels his mission is accomplished.

“We have succeeded beyond my most optimistic expectations of a year ago,” he wrote in a letter to supporters announcing his decision.

While never rising high in the polls, Mr. Tancredo helped force the rest of the Republican field to commit to securing the borders and opposing amnesty. Mr. Tancredo said the issue has grown so much that the top Democratic candidate, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, had to back off her support for driver's licenses for illegal aliens.

Mr. Tancredo said that by continuing to run, he feared he would muddle voters' decisions, forcing them to split their votes among several candidates and possibly allowing someone weaker on immigration to gain his party's nomination.

“Unfortunately, several of them have abysmal records on immigration and can't be trusted to do what is needed to preserve this country if they're elected,” he said. “My fear is that if I were to stay in this race my votes could be the factor in handing victory to a pro-amnesty politician.”

He told reporters in Iowa yesterday that Sen. John McCain and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee are the worst of the lot, while Mr. Romney had a record of fighting illegal entry as governor of Massachusetts. Mr. Romney opposed driver's licenses and in-state tuition for illegal aliens and tried to sign up state police to enforce federal immigration laws.

The self-deprecating Mr. Tancredo even had fun at his own expense in his letter to supporters, quoting from an item in Newsweek that used the phrase “anti-immigrant zealot has already won.” In brackets, Mr. Tancredo noted, “that would be me.”

Mr. Tancredo began traveling in Iowa two years ago to try to drum up interest in immigration. He visited church groups and house parties telling Republican voters to make sure they asked the candidates where they stood on the issue.

It was clear he was considering a run, but he said he would wait to see whether someone else emerged who was strong enough on the issue.

Mr. Tancredo announced earlier this year that he would not seek a sixth House term.

His endorsement of Mr. Romney further confuses the picture for Republican voters looking for a champion on immigration.

Last week another key immigration figure, Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, endorsed former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee. And Mr. Huckabee won the endorsement of James Gilchrist, a founder of the Minuteman citizen movement that brought attention to the issue by patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border.