He once received a call from Bush political strategist Karl Rove instructing him “never again to darken the doorstep of the White House.” Now, he is laying the groundwork to live there.Tom Tancredo is not a household word. He doesn’t have movie star good looks or a big, fat checkbook; nor has he spent the bulk of his free time as a congressman attending fund-raisers for other GOP candidates so that he can call in his chits – little IOUs for political endorsements.
It’s not the “normal” road one travels to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Nevertheless, the Colorado Republican has been the surprise winner of a number of early straw polls. His bumper stickers have been spotted on cars throughout the United States. His book, “In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America’s Border Security,” is selling well. “Draft Tancredo” committees have been established in several states. There is an independent online store that offers “Tancredo for President” gear, and he has an army of talk-show hosts who are his ardent supporters.
Tom Tancredo is well-known and deeply appreciated by the party’s conservative base and he’s got charisma that fills a room and literally oozes out the doors and onto the street. It is the kind that comes from deeply rooted convictions that rise up from the soul and excite those around him, not the kind manufactured by Madison Avenue that, after the initial excitement, leaves you with an empty feeling and a bad aftertaste.
Tancredo owns the issue of border security and immigration reform. It was outspokenness on that issue that put him on a collision course with Karl Rove at the White House. Tancredo would build the border fence authorized by the last Congress and go after employers who hire illegal immigrants. He would repeal the laws that give citizenship and benefits to children born on our soil to parents who are in this country illegally. He strongly believes that no one who has broken our immigration laws should ever be put on a “pathway to citizenship.”
This week, he took the first step to make good on a promise he made to run for president if no serious candidate took on the issue of real immigration reform. He formed an exploratory committee, Tancredo for a Secure America, to force the issue of immigration into the primary debates and push other candidates into embracing stricter enforcement. His website, TeamTancredo.org, spells out his position on other important issues.
Tancredo is an underdog, not tied into the big money supporters who are addicted to the flow of cheap illegal labor into America. He doesn’t have the inconsistency problems that plague front-runners John McCain and Mitt Romney, and he is head and shoulders ahead of the other second-tier candidates.
He has received rating of “A” or better on his voting record from the American Conservative Union, the National Right to Life Committee, the National Rifle Association, Family Research Council, Americans for Better Immigration and the National Federation of Independent Business.
The outspoken leader of the House Immigration Reform caucus has a message that resonates with voters of all political stripes. In fact, some of his most devoted followers are life-long Democrats who are fed up with politicians who give lip service to the issues they care about but are AWOL when it comes time to stand up and be counted. He is one of only a handful of Republicans who voted against both “No Child Left Behind,” a federal betrayal of local control of education, and the fiscally irresponsible Medicare prescription drug benefit.
A former history teacher, state legislator and conservative think tank president, he was appointed by Ronald Reagan as the Denver regional representative for the Department of Education. During his tenure at that post, he pared the office staff from 225 down to 60.
I have personally known this man for years – well before he ran for Congress – and I can assure you that, if by some miracle he managed to pull off a David and Goliath style win, the Tom Tancredo you see is the Tom Tancredo you will get: He is a family man with deep spiritual faith, strong moral values and political courage. He is compassionate but committed to the rule of law and the principles of good government set forth by our Founding Fathers. He will not be blown about by political winds.
His is a candidacy that can ignite the grass roots. His fate, however, depends on our willingness to put early money behind our rhetoric.