Mike Littwin: Tancredo, the one man who can out-Trump Trump
This is not exactly a newsflash, but Tom Tancredo is threatening to run for governor. Again. And any establishment Republican politician in Colorado who doesn’t know enough to be scared witless by this possibility is in the wrong line of work.
It has taken a lifetime for Tancredo and Donald Trump to breathe the same political air, but that time is now, even if Trump (just guessing here) doesn’t have the slightest idea who Tancredo is.
But Trump ally Steve Bannon knows Tancredo. Among Tancredo’s, uh, credentials is that he’s a regular columnist for Bannon’s Breitbart News — a journalistic match made somewhere short of heaven. I can’t wait for Tancredo to cover himself. With a flag, of course. And, no doubt, with a big, beautiful wall — on Mexico’s tab, of course — in the background.
I always used to say that Tancredo columns wrote themselves. Now Tancredo columns can literally write themselves. And his bombast makes Trump look almost measured. Trump may have made news by calling Mexican immigrants rapists. But Tancredo used to keep a fake-news list of illegal-immigrant murderers on his office door during his own slightly-hilarious-and-more-than-slightly-terrifying run for president.
What you need to know about Bannon, who made news by apparently sounding out Tancredo about a run, is that he cares far less about Trump than he does about Trumpism. And I don’t know who makes a better Trumpist than Tancredo, the sometimes-Republican bomb-thrower (and potential Mecca bomb-dropper) who was anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim and anti-Bush back when Trump was still a pro-choice Democrat.
Bannon has already threatened a “season of war” against Mitch McConnell, meaning a series of high-cost primaries against any Republican Senate incumbent who isn’t Trumpist enough. Tancredo is not running for the Senate, of course, but the call to revolution — particularly against his own party — is a siren Tancredo would never resist, whatever the office.
What I mean is, the way you’ll know whether Tancredo is running is to keep an eye out out for any balding septuagenarian setting up barricades.
If you missed the bizarre Trump-McConnell Rose Garden news conference Monday, in which Trump came down strongly on both sides of the Republican civil war, you know what I’m talking about. McConnell begged Republicans not to nominate people like Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, who all ran for the Senate in 2010 during the Tea Party panic and lost.
“You have to nominate people who can actually win, because winners make policy and losers go home,” McConnell said to the press. But his real audience, of course, was Trump, who can’t seem to make policy even when he’s on the winning team.
Bannon, meanwhile, is scouring the country for Tancredo-style candidates who give hope to every Democrat thinking there’s a chance to take back the Senate. But what you have in the Colorado governor’s race is not only the chance to run against Republicans who back the McConnells and the Ryans, but to run against people who are, in fact, the Bushes (or their relative) and the Romneys (or their relative).
Before we go any further, I have to make a small confession. Whenever Tancredo says he’s running for anything, I’m all in. I know it’s wrong, but I can’t help it. I mean, there’s no other candidate who is sure to deliver a high noon showdown against Dan Maes. What other Republican can brag about the time Karl Rove told him never to darken the White House steps again? This stuff is catnip for a political columnist.
But it’s not all selfish. It’s also one more opportunity for Colorado to reject the Tancredo brand — the carnival-barking demagogue who found his niche somewhere in the alt-right even before anyone knew the term. Twice he has run for governor, and twice he has lost.
So, he’s back, and his alleged reason for considering yet another run is perfect. In the post-Charlottesville Trumpworld, Tancredo seems worried that Colorado Republicans aren’t sufficiently white nationalist. No wonder Bannon is on his team. I’m sure there are many other fine people lining up to help.
Yes, Tancredo says he might have to run because none of the thousands of Republicans already in the race stood up for VDARE, the white nationalist group that had its scheduled Colorado Springs event canceled by the host resort hotel. Basically, Mayor John Suthers pushed VDARE out of town. And among those pushed was, of course, Tancredo, who had been scheduled to speak at the event.
And so he told The Denver Post, “Not one Republican in this state, no one elected or running for office, has the guts to say, ‘What the hell is going on?’ Whatever happened with the First Amendment? Have we totally annihilated it in our rush to appease the left?”
Since then, Tancredo, the ultimate anti-appeaser, has been on a viability tour, asking Republican voters whether this is his time.
Well, I’ve got good news for him and bad news for Republicans.
He’s viable. In fact, the larger the field, the better chance Tancredo has to win while running as a unscripted Trump mini-me in a bad sports jacket. If the field were any larger, they’d need to borrow Mile High Stadium for debates. And, believe me, no one would kneel during the national anthem.
Tancredo has his own solid base among Colorado Republicans. He would have no problem raising money. And, like Trump, he’s an expert at what we used to call earned media and what we now call the clown show.
The problem for Republicans is that this clown has no chance — as in none — to beat whoever wins the Democratic primary. He lost in the general election in 2010 and in the Republican primary in 2014. And, though he may be the Trumpiest guy around, let’s remember that Trump lost Colorado in 2016. If Trump can’t win as Trump, how could we expect Tancredo to?
And here’s what makes it worse for Republicans. Tancredo couldn’t care less if he loses. Seriously. Losing has become a habit for him by now. Besides, he’s not even running to become governor. He just wants to be back in the fight. And this time, with Steve Bannon in his corner, believe me, it’s going to be bloody.
Mike Littwin runs Sundays in The Aspen Times. A former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, he currently writes for ColoradoIndependent.com.
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