By Nancy Thorner –
Published at Illinois Review on Saturday, October 31, was this announcement: “Former Congressman Tancredo: Why I am leaving the Republican Party.” On the same day in a column posted on the conservative website Breitbart.com, Tancredo wrote about switching his voter registration to “unaffiliated” because the Republican Party no longer fights for its values and principles of “smaller government, individual rights, fiscal responsibility, and free enterprise.
Tancredo blamed Boehner’s budget deal as the last straw in his decision to no longer defend the Republican Party. But It remains to be seen whether the GOP will actually miss Tancredo who was a 10-year congressman, former state lawmaker and a veteran of two Republican presidential administration.
Checkered History as a Republican
What about Tancredo’s action in 2010 when he abandoned the Republican Party and launched an American Constitution Party bid for governor — a move that split the conservative vote with GOP candidate Don Maes and gave Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper an easy ride to victory? As a Constitutional Party candidate, Tancredo received a vote total of 36.7% of votes cast, despite the implosion of Republican Daniel Maes’ campaign “after the Denver Post questioned Maes’ claims of working undercover with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. The Post investigation found that officials in Kansas either had no recollection of them or could not confirm them.”
But there is more. Tancredo re-registered as a Republican on Jan. 18, 2011, according to voter records, and ran again for the governorship of Colorado in 2014, losing to Bob Beauprez. More recently, he was embroiled in a failed push to force the resignation of the Colorado Republican Party chairman. Most readers might recognize Tom Tancredo for his strong rhetoric against illegal immigration.
Regarding how Tancredo viewed Colorado’s contest for governor back in 2010: “The two (Republican Primary) candidates we have now are unelectable. One is essentially a fraud and another is experiencing all kinds of ethical problems.” Tancredo was talking about Scott McInnis and Dan Maes, suggesting that McInnis and Maes should drop out if they were trailing in the general election polls on the day of the primary. Tancredo also threatened to run as a candidate on the American Constitutional Party. Tancredo should have known that he could never win a third party effort.
Tancredo was angry that he hadn’t entered the Republican primary in the first place to easily win the nomination against those he considered losers. Tancredo’s third party threat was a ploy to get the Republicans to force whoever won the primary to resign and then have party leaders appoint him as the nominee. If the Republicans couldn’t do that, Tancredo thought he would build an organization that could carry him to the nomination next time around or perhaps be the means to launch another run for President. This strategy didn’t work. Instead of the 651,232 votes he won in the 2010 general election for Governor as an American Constitution Party candidate, Tancredo only received 102,830 in the 2014 Republican Gubernatorial primary.
Tancredo’s Timing of Party Switch Scrutinized
I would be the last to defend the present Republican leadership, but Tancredo’s timing can’t be defended. In many states, like in Pennsylvania and Florida, you have to be a registered Republican to vote in the Republican primary. With candidates like Ted Cruz and even Donald Trump running for president, voters have the chance to really impact the Republican Party for the first time since Ronald Reagan. Tancredo lost his party’s 2014 primary for governor by 13,503 votes, which was .66% of the total vote in the fall election for governor.
There’s not the slightest doubt in my mind that had Tancredo not run as a third party candidate in 2010, he would have won the Republican nomination for Governor in 2014. Tancredo certainly had a better chance to win than the Establishment candidate, former U.S. Representative Bob Beauprez, who eventually lost against a very weak Democrat incumbent, Gov. John Hickenlooper, by 68,000 votes.
Consider how David Brat beat Eric Cantor in the 2014 primary with 36,105 votes. “Extremist” David Brat went on to the beat the Democrat with 148, 026 votes or 60.83%. Like Ronald Reagan, once a conservative finally wins the Republican nomination, the media is forced to cover him/her. Voters then find out that he/she is not so “extreme” after all.
Winning the Republican nomination is the best way to get the conservative message out. It’s a lot easier to find 30,000 votes to win an upcoming Republican 2016 Congressional primary, than to find the 75,000-100,000 votes needed to win in next November’s General Election as a third party candidate. It’s simple math—it’s a lot easier to win the 10% of the voters you need to win the Republican nomination than the 40-45% you need in the fall as a third party candidate.
That doesn’t mean that conservatives shouldn’t vote third party in the fall when candidates (like our own Mark Kirk) are so ineffective as Republicans that there is no essential difference between the Democrat and Republican candidate. But individuals within the Republican Party shouldn’t be obvious in how they plan to vote, so next time around the primary can be won.
Not to be dismissed is that liberals took over the Democrat Party in 1972 with the McGovern candidacy, but not until Clinton was elected did the liberals finally get all they wanted. The liberals even used a third party in 2000 to remind the Democrats not to follow Bill Clinton’s “triangulation” back to the right, but to continue to be litmus test liberal. It worked! The liberals eventually got the two most liberal Democrat nominees in history in Kerry and Obama.
I have found, as a Republican precinct committeeman in Shields Township, IL, that I can always direct my efforts to helping a good conservative in the primary and in the fall. Why should I lift a finger to elect liberal “Republicans” like Mark Kirk who aren’t going to win and who tarnish the Republican “brand” by being essentially the same as a liberal Democrat? Such is in contradiction to what Senator McConnell suggested when he urged Republicans to support Mark Kirk because the GOP can’t afford to lose him. Legislators like Kirk demoralize all grass root Republicans and allow people like Tancredo to flourish.
I am concerned that just as voters are finally electing people like David Brat to Congress and have a chance to choose between the most conservative nominees for President since Reagan, that people like Tancredo are doing the dirty work of the liberal Establishment of both parties by getting people to abandon the greatest tool conservatives have—voting and running in the Republican primary.
But of far greater concern is the obvious and transparent dirty trick Tancredo is playing on Senator Cruz. As referenced in the Saturday, Oct. 31 article about Tancredo leaving the Republican Party, “…I will begin working my tail off for the next twelve months to organize Independents to help elect Sen.Ted Cruz (R-TX) as President of the United States.”
How can Cruz win without people voting in the Republican Primary? How can Cruz win the primary if the establishment tarnishes him with Tancredo’s record of only doing what’s best for Tancredo, not the Republican Party. Wouldn’t it have been far better for Tancredo to urge everyone to come back to the Republican Party to elect Senator Cruz?
Whether FDR actually said it or not, it’s true, in politics nothing happens by accident. And it seems not to be an accident that suddenly Tom Tancredo, known as a “Bomb Thrower”, is leaving the Republican Party and yet urging the election of “crazy” Ted Cruz, just when Cruz has begun to surge to the top of the pack.