By the Columbus Day Parade in Denver three years ago, epithets were the least of his worries.
He recalled a Denver plainclothes police officer saying, “Congressman, are you aware of the threats on your life here today?”
” ‘More than usual?’ ” Mr. Tancredo asked.
The officer read aloud from his notebook what people were overhead saying about “whacking” Mr. Tancredo that day. More alarming, a parade-route sweep had turned up high-powered rifle ammo taped inside a trash can.
The officer suggested that Mr. Tancredo not ride atop a float but walk the parade route surrounded by eight policemen instead. Along the route, however, he recalled seeing a young woman holding up her baby’s hand “and she has the baby flip me off.”
After that day, the Capitol Police, whose job is to protect members of Congress while in Washington, began showing up now and then at Tancredo speeches across the country.
Eventually he bought a “really good” bulletproof vest on the Internet and wears it when he thinks he needs it.
Mr. Tancredo’s decision to quit the presidential nomination race seemed right at the time.
He was in his hotel room at 11 p.m. on Dec. 20 when he saw former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a one-time advocate of giving sanctuary to illegals and the last of the candidates to adopt a border-security-first approach to the issue, promise in a spot commercial to secure the border and build a fence.
Mr. Tancredo immediately phoned campaign manager Bay Buchanan and said, “You can pull the plug on my campaign. The last domino just fell. Everybody’s come the distance.”
Since then, however, it is not clear whether the impact of Mr. Tancredo’s 11-month presidential nomination campaign has left him as an immigration hero or zero.
“The issue has been elevated to a place it hadn’t been before, but I will also be the first to admit, it has now begun to fall,” he said. “I’m sorry if that’s the result of my getting out of the race.”
“I don’t know that I have that much power over the issue,” Mr. Tancredo said. “I don’t know whether, if I had stayed in the race, it would still be up there at one or two, which is where it was. Now it’s down to three or four. I just don’t know.”