More puzzling, the latest immigration debates don’t even seem to have raised Tancredo’s profile.
By contrast, Ron Paul has been much more successful at using his presidential candidacy to gain a wider hearing for his opposition to the Iraq war — a much less popular position among the Republican faithful than support for a border security fence — and general libertarianism, even if he hasn’t yet gotten much of a bounce in the polls. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has at least earned high marks for his homespun debate performances. ~Jim Antle
Jim’s article covers the troubles of Tancredo’s campaign quite well. The contrast with Paul is interesting. Why hasn’t Tancredo’s outspoken stance on immigration garnered the attention Paul’s foreign policy tussle with Giuliani has? There’s no doubt about the outspokenness of his position, or its popularity with core Republican voters. In the third debate, he pushed for a moratorium on legal immigration and spoke hopefully about a day in our future when “para continuar en espanol, opprima dos“ is no longer heard (or words to that effect). He made a reasonably solid argument for the cultural and political importance of English as an official language. At a time when the GOP base is deeply alienated from Mr. Bush and Senate supporters of the amnesty bill who regard the base as “bigots,” it seems as if it would be ideal to be the candidate who declared, as he did last night, that he would not allow George Bush to darken the doorstep of the White House in a Tancredo administration. Simply as a viscerally appealing protest candidate, Tancredo has to be getting some support and attention, right? Apparently not.
Those mainstream conservative pundits and activists who talk up their concern about illegal immigration seem to be drifting towards Romney or the approaching Fred Thompson juggernaut. The conservative media may mention his candidacy from time to time, and restrictionist writers will discuss his campaign respectfully, but he is not receiving the spontaneous burst of free media or Internet support that Paul has enjoyed. I can think of five likely reasons, some of which Jim mentions or alludes to. First, MSM sources and liberal blogs and talk shows have absolutely no interest in playing up a hard-line restrictionist candidacy, since this is the part of the GOP that all of them despise, and on immigration they naturally sympathise with Giuliani, McCain, Huckabee and Brownback, whereas they tend to sympathise more with Paul or any Republican who shows independence from Bush on Iraq. Next, Tancredo has not had any prominent “good television” moments in which he faced off with another candidate, which in turn means that his contributions get ignored by soundbite-obsessed, conflict-oriented news reporting. Also, while it is a burning issue inside the GOP, immigration remains a relatively lower priority for the country as a whole relative to foreign policy and Iraq–a foreign policy debate in the GOP primaries is intrinsically more newsworthy and politically interesting to reporters than Tancredo’s fight against mass immigration. Fourth, restrictionists are fewer in number online and are not pushing Tancredo’s candidacy as hard as Paul’s online fans are pushing his. (This online buzz may ultimately be irrelevant when it comes time to vote, but it is helping to make Paul a more widely-known candidate.) Finally, Tancredo’s debate performances until last night were dismal and hardly the stuff around which one builds a successful insurgent campaign.
Jim notes the poor debate performances, including last night among them. I had started to think that he had been improving since the first two, but this is not actually saying very much. He seems to suffer occasionally from what I will dub Gilmore’s Disease: the need to summarise the entirety of his career, political philosophy and life goals in response to almost any question, regardless of its content.
The sixth reason why Tancredo is not breaking out from the pack on the issue is that Romney has rather fraudulently, but effectively, filled the leading spot as opponent of the amnesty bill, and Tancredo has to trip over Hunter, Gilmore and Paul in the back of the pack. Unlike Paul on foreign policy, he cannot stand out as the sole voice of reason on his single issue. There are many other competing voices claiming, some quite plausibly, that they also oppose amnesty. He also has to struggle to get any speaking time, and as the now-famous “talk clock” shows he is losing the battle to get out his message. Only the unfortunate Tommy Thompson fared worse in terms of the amount of time he had to speak. How is it possible that any candidate only gets to speak for five and three quarters minutes during a two-hour debate? That’s absurd.