Bomb-thrower Tancredo to run for Colorado governor

With an opening on the right, the controversy-seeking former representative looks to stir things up

Published November 13, 2009 4:35PM (EST)

Breaking news today: Somewhere in America, at this very moment, a right-wing favorite son is preparing to launch a primary campaign in a swing state against an establishment-anointed frontrunner of dubious conservative orthodoxy.

Someday, everyone's going to get sick of writing this story. But not yet!

Joining the conservative revolutionary vanguard this week is former congressman and presidential candidate Tom Tancredo. Probably best known as the Republican Party’s foremost nativist, Tancredo confirmed Thursday that he is preparing to run for governor of Colorado in 2010. The ex-representative told a reporter that he “fully intends to run.”

Tancredo has entertained running for higher office a number of times in recent years, but the general consensus was that the guy is unelectable statewide in Democratic-trending Colorado. (So naturally, he ran for president instead.) He was planning to stay out of the current gubernatorial race, he says, because state Sen. Josh Penry was already in, providing the necessary conservative challenge to the leading Republican candidate, former Rep. Scott McInnis.

McInnis -- much like former Tancredo presidential rival Mitt Romney -- used to be pro-choice. McInnis explained in a recent debate, “You grow older and you have kids and grandkids and friends die and you realize how important life is.” As with Romney, that explanation isn't cutting it for conservative activists, and doubts about McInnis’ credibility were the basis of Penry’s campaign. (One important factor here: Though the state may be going blue, areas of it are bases of the evangelical movement.)

But earlier this week, Penry dropped out of the race, saying he couldn’t raise enough money to win, and didn’t want to wound McInnis if he couldn’t beat him. This opened up a spot on the right for Tancredo, who describes himself as “not a part of the Republican establishment. My allegiance is more to a philosophy than it is to a party." He added, "The Republican Party has lost its soul and it's looking in all the wrong places to find it.”

This is the guy, of course, who suggested the United States should use the Muslim holy city of Mecca as a nuclear hostage against terrorist threats. He described Miami as looking like “a third-world country.” And he said that Justice Sonia Sotomayor is a “member of the Latino KKK,” and, because he appointed her, President Obama “may indeed be a racist.” Tancredo might be the closest thing to a Rep. Pat Buchanan there has ever been -- but he’s running in an increasingly Latino state.

Meanwhile, once-popular Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter has been struggling in the polls. Ritter's surely thrilled to hear that the GOP's still set to have another intra-party ideological throwdown as it picks an opponent for him.

By Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

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