Thursday, February 8, 2007

Why Tancredo stepped down as Immigration Caucus leader

Eight years after founding the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus as the vanguard of his anti-immigration movement, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) has stepped down as chairman, passing the reins to former Federation for American Immigration Reform lobbyist Brian Bilbray (R-CA). Tancredo, who has set his sights on the White House, appears to be shifting tactics in his quest to move his nativist agenda forward.

In a statement released from Bilbray's office Tancredo said, “Congressman Bilbray was asked to lead the IRC because of his pragmatic approach to the illegal immigration issue. Brian has held the line against amnesty, fought for border security and will be a terrific leader of the Immigration Reform Caucus.”

But the change of leadership might say more about Tancredo's future ambitions than Bilbray's ability to lead the caucus.

In the shakeup that followed the November defeat of the Republican majority, it's been a mixed bag for the anti-immigration crowd.

In January, immigration hardliners managed to score a victory when they stripped comprehensive reform sponsor, Arizona Republican Representative Jeff Flake of his coveted seat on the Judiciary Committee.

Flake says it's because of his stand against party lines on immigration reform.

Flake says committee members know there's an immigration package coming with his name on it, and they don't like what it says.

Flake says the official party line will be that House Republicans are losing committee seats because of the GOP's loss of the majority in the fall elections.

But, he says six Republicans with less seniority than Flake remain on the committee, including Arizona Representative Trent Franks.

Yet, a few days later, despite their best efforts they couldn't keep Bush ally and comprehensive reform advocate, Mel Martinez (R-FL), from taking over leadership of the RNC.

For Tancredo this new political landscape has presented some challenges.

Immediately after the election he announced that "We will now be looking at the strong potential for some sort of guest worker-amnesty program that cannot be stopped." Although he said he would fight to "gin up as much opposition" to it.

He also shunned any idea at running for a leadership position stating that he wasn't interested.

Tancredo, however, said he is once again mulling over a run for the presidency to push the immigration issue. He will wait for a few other questions to be resolved - including whether Allard runs again - before deciding to form an exploratory committee.

Denver Post

However, as it turned out Allard's decision played no role in Tancredo's decision to run for the White House. He had ruled out a Senate run long before Allard's announcement not to seek another term.

Tancredo claimed that if and when he was to make a Presidential bid it would be "for all the marbles"… but perhaps his plan is much more far reaching than it appears.

The conventional wisdom dictates that as an undeniable long-shot in the race, Tancredo's run is more about forcing his issue into the mainstream debate in hopes of moving his party further the right on immigration. Like his mentor, Pat Buchanan, he is hoping to replicate Buchanan's 1992 successes in the early primaries and garner enough clout to force immigration to the forefront of the election with talk about of new "war … for the soul of America."… A war against an "invading horde of immigrants" he believes are changing the very fabric of the nation.

But conventional wisdom may be wrong this time around. Perhaps it is a different Buchanan Presidential run that now interests Tancredo ... the 2000 third party run.

His lack of interest in vying Allard's Senate seat (which admittedly would be a long-shot for him to win given the current climate) coupled with his unwillingness to seek a greater leadership position, and even give up the power he already had in the House by passing his IRC leadership on to Bilbray, could be viewed as the acts of a man whose not making plans to run for his parties nomination but rather to jump ship.

Certainly his recent hires seem to reveal a willingness to go outside the usual party structure when looking for people to run his Presidential campaign .

U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., has hired a former Christian Coalition leader to run his New Hampshire presidential campaign.

The Littleton Republican announced today that Shelly Uscinski, the 2000 New Hampshire campaign director for Pat Buchanan, would head his operations in the Granite State. Uscinski also was a Buchanan delegate to the 1996 Republican convention and once headed the New Hampshire branch of the Christian Coalition.
Denver Post

Tancredo also tapped another ex-Buchananite, Ken C McAlpin to be his campaigns treasurer.

Rep. Tom Tancredo has tapped an official from the now-defunct Virginia Freedom Party to be treasurer of his presidential exploratory committee, but that does not mean he's pondering a third-party candidacy, a spokesman said Monday

McAlpin, also known as "K.C.," is prominent in the immigration-reform movement that has made Tancredo famous. He has served as a deputy director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and is executive director of the group ProEnglish, which advocates making English the official language of the U.S.
Rocky Mountian News

In both cases Tancredo spokesmen were quick to point out that he has no intention of launching a third party run.

"From the beginning, we've had no intention to run as a third-party candidate, ever, and we'll never consider that because he's a Republican, period," said T.Q. Houlton, spokesman for the newly formed Tancredo for a Secure America Exploratory Committee.
Rocky Mountian News

Yet, there is one more key player in Tancredo world that might have a different opinion on the whole third party issue ... Pat's sister and former campaign manager Bay.

As a founding member of Team America PAC along with Tancredo, Bay has been grooming the Colorado Congressman for quite some time to be a national candidate. "Tancredo for a Secure America", his current Presidential campaign committee is a direct spin off of "Secure America Now," the campaign launched by Buchanan and Tancredo's Team America PAC to support anti-immigration candidates during the last election cycle.

One of the main candidates "Secure America Now" worked with was Minuteman Randy Graf… who could be viewed as Franco's Spain in the Buchanan's coming campaign …a place to test the blitzkrieg before the real battle begins.

Michael D. Bryan at Blogs for Arizona pointed out a over year ago the power of the Buchanan campaign machine while first covering Graf's congressional run in Arizona's 8th district.

"Secure America Now" is the road show for Team America, a Political Action Committee dedicated to border issues founded by Tom and Bay. Only by understanding the significance of the SAN tour and the history of the Buchanans in American politics does the full significance of the tour's stop in Tucson really have a useful context. Randy Graf is only a small part of the story.

The SAN tour is not just mutual support by ideologically allied politicians. This is something much larger, and more crass. This is anti-immigrant sentiment becoming the new centerpiece of the extreme right agenda. This is Tom Tancredo's shake-down run for his Presidential campaign - one in which he may be positioning to take Buchanan's traditional place to right of everyone else, and Pat's campaign manager, Bay, as well.

The campaigns run by Bay are not traditional campaigns. Strategically they have a lot in common with Ralph Nader's campaigns - they seek to pressure the moderates to deal with ideas the fringes find compelling. Logistically they are pigeons to the Party nominee's Air Force One - lean and mean, they can keep going with minimal financial support. Monetarily they are as different from a major party campaign as could be. Where losing candidates often retire from the field with millions in debts to retire, Buchanan's campaigns end heavily in the black with millions in tax-payer dollars in the bank and valuable assets, such as supporter databases, which can be used to support a permanent state of campaigning. With Bay at the helm of Tancredo's tour two things are sure: it will be a very efficiently run campaign, and it will be a very profitable one, even more so now that grassroots organizing and fund raising via the Internet has come of age.

Bay Buchanan is an experienced and canny political organizer and a revolutionary fund-raiser. Many people looked at the Dean campaign's tremendous success in raising large amounts of funding from small donations as something Sui Generis in Presidential politics. It isn't. Pat Buchanan's campaigns have been doing the same thing from the early 90s using the direct mail wizardry of Bay Buchanan. The Buchanan's were able to raise millions in the campaigns from small dollar donors, and capture federal matching funds much more efficiently that their more electorally successful competitors. Bay and Pat have garnered as much as 40 million in federal matching funds this way. For a complete account of the political fund raising and media empire which Pat and Bay have built I strongly recommend a the very insightful and well-researched article by Monte Paulsen.

... snip ...

This campaign will be much like Pat Buchanan's prior runs, self-promotional, very remunerative, and influential among the far right. I will predict now that Pat's next book will be about immigration with a forward by Tancredo: or maybe the other way around. Bay and Tom, by founding a PAC have added a new ability to the Buchanan campaign template; the power to reward allies who give them credibility and to give credibility to allies who give them power

Blogs for Arizona"Graf, Tancredo, and Buchanan: Tres Banditos en Tucson", January 21, 2006

It looks like more predictions than the one about Pat Buchanan's next-book will end up to be on the mark before the 08 election cycle comes to a close.

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