As widely expected, Tom Tancredo dropped out of the presidential race this afternoon. He had generated almost no significant national support despite being associated with the favored position on one of the biggest issues for Republicans, immigration. However, he surprised everyone with his valedictory endorsement of Mitt Romney:
Rep. Tom Tancredo announced Thursday that he is dropping out of the race for the GOP presidential nomination.
Tancredo, a five-term congressman from Colorado, said he would endorse rival Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination.
Some may dismiss the endorsement as an afterthought. Given his very poor showing in the polls, one could figure that Tancredo will shift very few voters to Romney. If Tancredo's influence only extended to his primary constituency, they would be correct.
However, Tancredo's influence on immigration extends far beyond the 1% he attracted as a presidential candidate. Many people who consider him an authority on immigration didn't believe him to be the best nominee for the Republican ticket. They still respect his perspective on immigration, and the endorsement matters to them.
Perhaps only Rudy Giuliani would have gotten a bigger boost from a Tancredo nomination. Romney has taken plenty of shots for his previous statements on immigration policy, as well as heavy abuse for using a contractor at his house who hired illegals to do the work. If Tancredo feels comfortable enough with Romney to endorse him, then it gives Romney extra credibility on the issue which ranks among the highest for Republicans.
It comes at a good time, too. It will take this story off of the top headlines:
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said he watched his father, the late Michigan Gov. George Romney, in a 1960s civil rights march in Michigan with Martin Luther King Jr.
On Wednesday, Romney's campaign said his recollections of watching his father, an ardent civil rights supporter, march with King were meant to be figurative.
"He was speaking figuratively, not literally," Eric Fehrnstrom, spokesman for the Romney campaign, said of the candidate.
That's a pretty weak response. Here's what Romney said in The Speech, "Faith in America":
These American values, this great moral heritage, is shared and lived in my religion as it is in yours. I was taught in my home to honor God and love my neighbor. I saw my father march with Martin Luther King. I saw my parents provide compassionate care to others, in personal ways to people nearby, and in just as consequential ways in leading national volunteer movements.
Which parts of this were meant figuratively? The values shared and lived in his religion? His parents providing compassionate care to others? The use of the phrase "I saw" conveyed a sense of witnessing an actual event, not a figure of speech.
Romney would have been better off saying that he got that story from his father and older brother and assumed it to be true. It would still call into question his eyewitness account in the speech, but that could be written off as rhetorical flourish. The point about marching with King was meant to counter the racism in the Mormon church, and was important enough that most analysts recognized it as such immediately.
Tancredo's surprise endorsement will overshadow that gaffe. Romney had better double-check his anecdotes a little more carefully in the future if he doesn't want to end up in Al "I helped create the Internet" Gore territory.