Mike Littwin: Tancredo on his knees
It may not have been much of a win for Bob Beauprez, but it was a huge victory for Colorado Republicans.
For establishment Republicans — and, by a quick look at the numbers, a lot of other Republicans, too — it didn’t really matter who won the race for governor. All that mattered was that Tom Tancredo lost.
That’s why Beauprez was drafted late in the campaign. It wasn’t to beat John Hickenlooper. If he does — and he starts the race an underdog — that would be a Goldman Sachs-sized bonus.
Beauprez’s job was to stop Tancredo, because, yes, somebody had to do it.
The Republican four-way primary race generated little heat and even less light, and Beauprez drew just 30 percent of the vote, which isn’t exactly a mandate. And no wonder. His candidacy is basically a promise that he’ll try to do better than he did last time — when he lost to Bill Ritter by an astonishing 17 points.
But he was the best bet to beat Tancredo. He brought his own money. He had name recognition. And in a four-way race, he could win with just more than 30 percent. And, of course, he had Tancredo’s help. I mean, who else is going to run for governor by campaigning on fighting off the feds and impeaching Barack Obama? I don’t know when exactly Tancredo’s time was past, but it had to be a couple of revolutions ago.
In 21st-century Colorado, the one we live in, a Tancredo campaign would have compromised the entire Republican ticket. That’s what comes of a lifetime of saying reckless things like, you know, illegal immigrants were coming to kill our grandchildren.
We’ll see if Beauprez, who has lots of his own baggage, possibly could be a step forward, but a Tancredo win would have been a definite step backward, a step into the abyss.
It was a near thing. Beauprez had to loan his campaign more than $500,000, and still, he beat Tancredo by not even four points. Here’s a mandate for you: Beauprez beat fourth-place finisher Mike Kopp by only 10 points.
At the Beauprez victory party, Tancredo’s loss was all anyone talked about.
As one prominent Republican put it to me: “Thank God, thank God, thank God Tom lost.”
As Rep. Amy Stephens, a U.S. Senate candidate until Cory Gardner got in the race, said, “Cory is the big winner tonight.”
If Tancredo had won, the national Republicans would have stayed away and spent their money elsewhere. If Tancredo had won, Democrats would have made him the face of the Republican ticket. Tancredo would have hurt Gardner. He would have hurt Mike Coffman.
Instead, Tancredo hurt only himself.
Even the most loyal Tancredista must concede that he’s now basically a fringe player. When he raced to save the Republican Party from Dan Maes four years ago by running as an American Constitution Party candidate, he lost to Hickenlooper by 15 points. It’s one thing to say — as I’ve said often — that Tancredo can’t win a statewide race. But who knew that he couldn’t even win a statewide Republican primary?
I actually thought he would win, with maybe something like 33 percent of the vote. A four-way race should be perfect for someone like Tancredo, who has a smallish but rabid support group. But he couldn’t even crack 30 points, which is really smallish.
Democrats ran ads trying to get him nominated — ads that may have backfired. Republicans ran ads attacking him — ads that may have worked. In any case, the race was about Tancredo and Tancredo only.
Stephens, who is backing Beauprez, had a good idea why Tancredo lost.
“Many said (Tancredo) would exit the race if Bob got in,” she said. “He didn’t exit the race. He eschewed the debates. … He didn’t seem to be trying to win, but he didn’t just punt, either. He was selective. He wanted to win but he wanted to do it his way. … What was his campaign about? Maybe it was all about Tom.”
It’s always about Tom. Those who know him like to say how charming he is. And he can be. But he’s also a carney barker selling tickets to the Tancredo freak show, peopled with characters like Ted Nugent and Sheriff Joe and Dog the Bounty Hunter. It has never been clear why anyone takes Tancredo seriously, except for the necessity to rebut the ugly things he says.
Now, he’s done. Now, more than 73 percent of Republicans said they preferred Beauprez or Scott Gessler or Mike Kopp — not exactly sterling competition. He’ll still make noise because that’s what he does. But fewer and fewer people will find cause to listen.
When Tancredo saw that he was going to lose, he called Beauprez to concede. He made sure to call him in front of the TV cameras. He was gracious. He promised to do whatever he could to help.
“If it’s going door to door on my knees …” Tancredo said.
Tancredo on his knees. That’s the enduring image of the 2014 GOP primary. And now the race goes on without him.