Can Tancredo Make Immigration A Litmus Test For GOP?

On Tuesday morning, January 16,

Tom Tancredo
announced he is setting up an
exploratory committee to seek the GOP nomination for the
president. [Tancredo
Forms Presidential Exploratory Committee
, By
Marie Horrigan,  New York Times, January 16,
2007]

This makes him the first presidential candidate since

Pat Buchanan
to place

immigration at the center of his campaign
.
Tancredo`s campaign may be even more important to the
immigration reform movement—Buchanan always preferred to
talk about

trade
, whereas Tancredo is making it clear that he
is running a

one issue campaign
. And immigration, particularly
illegal immigration, is more of a hot button issue now

than it was in the 1990s.
VDARE.COM does not endorse
candidates for elected office. But we can take a look at
their prospects and how they would affect

patriotic immigration reform.

If done properly, a Tancredo run could shock the

Establishment
candidates and force the immigration
issue to the front of the primaries. David Yepsen, one
of the top election analysts, noted this morning that
Tancredo "has the potential to pull the Republican
field of candidates to the right…on his signature issue
of curbing illegal immigration."
[Immigration
critic could pull caucus field to right
], Des
Moines Register
, January 16, 2007] Of the three
announced establishment candidates,

Rudy Giuliani
and

John McCain
are solidly in the open borders camp,
while Mitt Romney has a

mixed


record
. A candidate who can push an

anti-amnesty
and anti-guest
worker
agenda could get a sizable vote.

However, while the major candidates do not have a
good deal of credibility on immigration, Tancredo is not
the only congressman seeking the Presidency who has a
good reputation on immigration reform.



  • Ron Paul
    of Texas:
    Paul has received notoriety for his maverick
    stances against foreign intervention, the U.N., the
    income tax, the Federal Reserve, and pretty much
    anything the government has done in the last 150
    years. Although he is a libertarian, Paul has a

    solid
    though imperfect record on immigration,
    but he is not strongly identified with the issue.



  • Duncan Hunter
    of
    California:
    Hunter is the ranking
    Republican in the House Armed Services Committee.
    Hunter has been making it clear to many Republican
    donors and insiders that he plans on making

    protectionism
    and immigration control a
    centerpiece of his campaign. He has managed to amass
    a

    good immigration voting record
    while still being
    on good terms with the Republican establishment. He
    has done that in large part by being Bush`s point
    man on Iraq—and

    now possibly Iran
    —and also by not making much
    noise, when it came to the point, over his
    opposition to the Bush immigration plan.

Neither of these men will make as big an impact as

Tancredo
, but they will certainly cut into his
support. Ron Paul has a very loyal following among

libertarians
and

constitutionalists
, but it is hard to see him appeal
to anyone beyond that fringe. Nonetheless, much of that
fringe would otherwise donate and volunteer for Tancredo.
Conversely, Hunter has no

grassroots
following, but he has already managed to
snag up a number of the major protectionist and
restrictionist donors and party officials in what is
left of the hard right in the GOP.

In order for Tancredo, or at this point any, serious
national immigration reform candidate to succeed, he
must no longer work within the confines of the dying
“conservative movement”
. The

traditional constituency
of a right wing Republican
has been:


  • Single issue candidates:

    Like the movement conservatives, these are people
    who generally are upset that the GOP is not strongly
    supportive of their pet issue, particularly

    Gun Control
    and abortion.


  • The "Far" Right
    .

    While these may not make up a huge number of voters,
    groups like the Council of Conservative Citizens,
    and

    John Birch Society
    can give hundreds, if not
    thousands of dedicated volunteers.

Pat Buchanan got a huge amount of support from all
these groups, but it is not going to be as easy for
Tancredo. Although he is solidly pro-life, another
pro-Life candidate

like Sam Brownback
will likely appear to take those
votes.  The

gun rights voters
and many of the John Birch Society
types will likely

gravitate
towards Ron Paul. Although Tancredo has
stellar conservative movement record—almost always
receiving 100% voting record from the American
Conservative Union—these people will not be inclined to
support him, because they are not passionate about
immigration and they will be upset that he doesn`t spend
enough time on whatever else they want him to.  The
American Spectator
has already run a hit piece [Tancredo`s
Dubious Allies
,
January 16, 2007 based on
an earlier

WSJ attack by Jason Riley
.] questioning
Tancredo`s conservative and pro-life credentials because
he receives support from population control groups. (Of
course, this is actually an example of Tancredo`s
ability to build a new coalition.)


Politically incorrect groups
like the Council of
Conservative Citizens could be a strong source of
support—they held the

largest anti-Amnesty rally in the country
with well
over 1,000 people in the

key primary state
of South Carolina—and a successful
Tancredo campaign would have to know how to

utilize this constituency
without being intimidated
by left-wing enforcer groups like the

Southern Poverty Law Center
.

This is a difficult wire to walk, and Tancredo has
already slipped before. Last fall, Tancredo spoke in
Columbia, SC and the SPLC falsely reported that the
event was sponsored by the

League of the South
. Rather than say this was not
true, and leave it at that, Tancredo`s spokesman Carlos
Espinoza also added that the League is a "very racist
and a horrible group."
[Tancredo
camp denies `hate group` claim |Anti-racism center
berates S.C. event
, By M.E. Sprengelmeyer,
Rocky Mountain News
, September 13, 2006] This will
inevitably put many of these potential supporters in the
Ron Paul camp, without scoring any points with the SPLC.

Nevertheless, Tancredo could build his own
anti-immigration constituency. There are millions of
people who are not hung up on the traditional causes of
the GOP, but are completely fed up with the

open borders policies of both parties
. One of the
big buzz words of the 2006 election was

"Lou Dobbs Democrats"
.
There is no reason why
they should not be known as “Tancredo Republicans”.
 If a Tancredo candidacy can successfully organize a campaign that
appeals to these people, he could literally change the
face of American politics.

Tancredo says he is running for third place. That`s a
prudent goal, given the hundreds of millions of dollars
that Romney and McCain expect to be spending. However, a
strong Tancredo showing could very well make patriotic
immigration reform akin to

pro-life
or

Second Amendment support
—a key litmus test for any
future Republican who wants the GOP nomination for
president.

Ellison Lodge (email
him) works inside the Beltway on immigration issues.