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January 17, 2007
Don Tancredo

One of the more amusing aspects of any presidential campaign is the people who believe they have a chance to win the nomination. This year, we already have one from each party. The Democrats have Chris Dodd, a man so non-descript that even his own constituents have trouble recognizing him. The Republicans now may have its own Don Quixote in Tom Tancredo, who announced the formation of an exploratory committee that will have to include windmills and some heavy-duty tilting:

Colorado's Tom Tancredo took his first official step Tuesday toward running for president.

The Republican congressman from Littleton - known for his hard-line stance on immigration - announced his plan to file paperwork for a presidential exploratory committee. He set up a website and within four hours, he said, collected about $10,000 in campaign contributions.

After spending the weekend in Iowa, where the earliest presidential nominating caucus is to be held in mid-January 2008, Tancredo, 61, said he decided there's a need for a candidate with traditional Republican beliefs of small government, reduced spending and conservative social values. ...

Tancredo acknowledges he has no chance to raise the "hundreds of millions of dollars" that likely candidates such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani could potentially acquire.

He said for now he needs to determine whether he can raise the $1 million or so he'd need to compete in Iowa. Tancredo has hired a representative to run his campaign there.

Tancredo says that a third-place finish in Iowa would be a victory for him, but that's a stretch. The top two finishers in Iowa and New Hampshire, if they're the same two people, will pretty much have the run of the primaries to themselves. Money follows success, and Tancredo has little prospect of either. He wants to raise one million dollars for Iowa, but in order to have any impact on those caucuses he will have to spend every last cent -- leaving him little for New Hampsire.

Some will say that the point of Tancredo's run isn't really to win the nomination, but to put pressure on the frontrunners to get more hard-line on immigration. Perhaps Tancredo himself has this in mind, too. However, it seems pretty counterintuitive to think that someone who has almost no chance of even cracking the top tier of the candidates can put pressure on anyone about immigration or anything else. The only way that would work would be if Tancredo had a realistic shot to win the nomination. Otherwise, the Romneys, Giulianis, Gingrichs, and McCains can safely ignore Tancredo and all of the other single-issue politicians vying for a small slice of attention in 2008.

And for Tancredo's fans, consider what a disaster a Tancredo campaign could be for hard-liners on immigration. Since he has no real national standing on any other issue, the lack of support that Tancredo will suffer will reflect directly on immigration reform. It will be much easier for moderates and liberals to show that the hard-liners on immigration are marginal at best if Tancredo runs against McCain and Giuliani and flops. It will reduce the influence of Tancredo and others who insist on border security and no amnesty or citizenship for illegals, not boost it.

Front runners in presidential politics usually get there by having a broad policy outlook and developing the kind of experience that lends credibility to their executive potential. Single-issue legislators rarely fare well when throwing their hats in the ring -- Bob Dornan springs to mind here -- and usually wind up as a laughingstock, and their issue marginalized. Tancredo's exploratory committee might want to take all of this into consideration before wasting political donations better used to help the eventual Republican nominee win the general election.

UPDATE: Why am I so hard on Tancredo? His prescription to "bomb Mecca" if we get hit by a terrorist nuke would certainly be one reason to keep his finger off the button. The North American Union nuttiness would be another reason to view him as a fringie. Americans don't elect people who don't have the mental discipline to avoid buying into urban legends.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 17, 2007 8:48 AM

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