Rep. Tom Tancredo yesterday formed a committee to explore a run for the Republican nomination for president, hoping to force the issue of immigration into the primary debates and push the candidates to embrace stricter enforcement.
“As I look at the current presidential candidates — Republican and Democratic — I simply do not see one who reflects the grass-roots, majority belief of Americans that our borders must be secured, that employers who hire illegals must be prosecuted, and that no one who has broken our immigration laws should ever be put on a ‘pathway to citizenship,’ ” Mr. Tancredo wrote in his first fundraising letter.
The Colorado Republican’s political rise has tracked closely with the immigration issue, which went from being a “sleeper” issue to a dominant part of the 2006 congressional campaigns. Mr. Tancredo on Monday ruled out a run for the U.S. Senate seat that will open in 2008 with the retirement of Sen. Wayne Allard.
Mr. Tancredo, 61, has spent time during the past two years traveling in the early primary and caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He said at the time that those trips were designed to put the issue of immigration on the minds of voters and said he would only enter the race if no credible candidate stepped in to represent the immigration-enforcement approach.
Yesterday, Mr. Tancredo said nobody has picked up the banner.
Bay Buchanan, a friend and confidante of Mr. Tancredo’s who runs his political action committee, Team America, said that immigration is the issue that will help Mr. Tancredo stand out from the pack of candidates. She also said his record, consistently conservative up and down the line, will go over well with Iowa’s pro-life, conservative caucusgoers.
“He is an across-the-board social conservative — one that the Christian right can feel completely comfortable with, that he has been with them on those issues for his whole life,” she said.
His advisers say Mr. Tancredo will not raise the sort of money that Republican heavyweights Sen. John McCain, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney expect to raise. Advisers to Mr. Romney say their target is $70 million this year, while a campaign document from Mr. Giuliani says his target is $100 million.
Mr. Tancredo is in the smaller-budget group that includes Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson and Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas.
But Mr. Tancredo stands out from that pack because he brings to the race a dedicated army of talk-radio show hosts and activists who oppose illegal immigration.
“His strength is that he already has a national following. He has enormous grass-roots support. He is well-known across this country by the Republican base,” said Mrs. Buchanan, who was chairman in all three of her brother Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaigns.
She said Mr. Tancredo’s candidacy should excite those who supported Mr. Buchanan in 1992 and 1996, but said that as a five-term congressman, Mr. Tancredo also brings his own national following.