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Gazette Premium Content EDITORIAL: Republican Party needs to solve its Tancredo problem

The Gazette editorial Updated: May 19, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Forget November for the moment. If Colorado Republicans have serious ambition to defeat Gov. John Hickenlooper, and to win the U.S. Senate race, they need to resolve their Tom Tancredo problem. It may involve sacrifice by Republican gubernatorial candidates Scott Gessler and Mike Kopp.

The math is simple. Three viable Republicans and Tancredo want their party's nomination in the June 24 primary. Former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, Secretary of State Gessler and former state Senate Minority Leader Kopp are standard bearers of fiscal and social conservatism. Beauprez offers a rare combination of solid political experience and extraordinary success in business that ranges from farming to banking. He's appealing on the western slopes, the eastern plains and along the urban Front Range corridor. No one could seriously question his ability to strengthen leadership in the executive branch.

As traditional conservatives, Beauprez, Gessler and Kopp stand to divide the Republican base three ways.

Meanwhile, former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo stands as lone beneficiary of an undivided special-interest niche within the party. His loyal supporters may control a crowded-field primary, but cannot possibly sway the outcome of a two-candidate general election. Not in a state where races are won in the middle, mostly by appealing to moderate independents, Hispanics and suburban women.

Tancredo's base consists of one-issue voters who cling to the candidate's over-zealous obsession with immigration — an issue barely relevant to the governor's job. If one thing can be certain in Colorado's volatile political landscape, it is this: Tancredo cannot win statewide office. He would not win if blessed with a Democratic sexting scandal, so imagine his odds against a vetted, folksy incumbent with a small-business background and moderate facade.

Conservatives have varying positions on immigration reform, border control and in-state tuition for immigrants brought here as infants. Tancredo's positions could not get more extreme. He proposed the "Mass Immigration Reduction Act" in 2003 as a means to stop all legal immigration for at least five years. He compared Miami to a "third world country" because people there speak Spanish. He has warned of immigrants "coming here to kill you and to kill me and our families." A recent campaign stop generated the promise of veritable war with the federal government to defend the 10th Amendment. It just won't play in Colorado.

Tancredo has made so many strident anti-immigration remarks that Hispanics consider him hostile to their demographic. A recent poll found Latino voters with non-favorable views of Tancredo outnumber those with favorable views 2-to-1.

Ronald Reagan described Hispanics, immigrants and others, as "natural Republicans." He saw a pro-family, church-going, hard-working community that supports the GOP's social-issues platform. George W. Bush spoke Spanish and actively cultivated Latino support. Each understood Hispanics as the dominant demographic going forward. Each sent skyward the trajectory of Latino support for the GOP, which the party subsequently squandered.

While Hispanics have diverse views on immigration, few want to hear a politician's daily tirades about fellow Latinos threatening the American way of life.

Tancredo's nomination would be an automatic second term for Hickenlooper. It is the scenario Democrats dream of.

For Republicans, it's a nightmare beyond forfeiture of the governor's race. As explained in the conservative American Spectator by Colorado's Ross Kaminsky — who endorsed Tancredo for governor in 2010 — the former congressman's nomination "will poison the entire ticket for the GOP." He explained how one Republican candidate's anti-immigrant hostility, past and present, would motivate Democrats and independents that would otherwise stay home. While voting against Tancredo, they'll vote against other Republicans. Forget winning the Senate race.

Several key Republicans, even those who admire him, have advised Tancredo to exit for just this reason. It's not likely. So two talented candidates with promising futures — Kopp and Gessler — should consider stepping aside in the interest of stopping Tancredo. Help focus Republicans on Beauprez — the most qualified, seasoned and best-funded conservative in the race. At stake is the Republican Party's future viability in Colorado, which affects them both.

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