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Long-shot contender hoping for N.H. upset

Tom Tancredo
Presidential hopeful, Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., admits the odds of his election are very long, but says the stakes are very high.Susan Walsh / AP file
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MANCHESTER, N.H. — Some Republican presidential contenders call themselves conservatives, and on fiscal matters or social issues, some are on the right side of the spectrum.

But Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., carrying on his presidential campaign here in New Hampshire over the past few days, is the full-spectrum, 24-carat conservative on everything from entitlement spending to abortion to illegal immigrants to the threat of a rapidly arming China.

What other candidate would call for abolishing the Congressional Black Caucus on the grounds that exclusive racially-based caucuses violate equal rights?

“It is disgraceful that more than a half-century after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, an organization sanctioned by the U.S. Congress maintains a policy of racial exclusivity,” he declared in January.

What other candidate is willing to voice concern about illegal immigrants bringing with them across the border diseases such as leprosy and tuberculosis?

And as he himself noted on Monday, “Probably no one else (among the 2008 GOP contenders) is going to suggest that Miami is a Third World country.”

More conservative than Hunter
While Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. is another anti-China, anti-illegal immigrant Republican presidential hopeful, Tancredo reminded reporters in Manchester, Monday, that Hunter voted for President Bush’s multi-hundred billion dollar Medicare prescription drug plan for the elderly, while he, Tancredo, voted “no.”

On China, Tancredo can argue – and accurately so – that he was saying in 1999 and 2000 what Democrats such as Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut are saying today about economic and military threats from China.

He professes an old-fashioned Barry Goldwater-style conservatism: health insurance and retirement saving should not be the federal government’s responsibility, he says. The self-reliant individual should take care of himself. “We (the federal government) have taken on so many roles that are not ours…. My health care responsibility, my retirement responsibility, it should be mine,” he said in speech to 30 Republican activists in Hampton, N.H. Saturday.

Tancredo is also willing to veer from the White House line on Iraq: “I was against the surge… I do not believe that an additional troop concentration there is helpful.”

He said the American military presence in Iraq is hurting the overall U.S. effort against radical Islamists.

High stakes, long odds
Tancredo has either a slim chance to win the GOP nomination or none, but unlike the better-known candidates such as Arizona's Sen. John McCain, he offers conservatives satisfaction on all fronts, especially on immigration.

“The stakes are very high and the odds are very long,” he told a group of about 20 voters as he opened his campaign office Monday in a converted textile mill building in Manchester, N.H.

In his tour of New Hampshire, Tancredo found small but earnest audiences.

Diane Lothrop from Nashua, a legal immigrant from England (“I’m very proud to be a citizen,” she said) turned out in Hampton to see Tancredo’s speech Saturday, nodding as Tancredo praised a recent federal appeals court ruling striking down the Washington, D.C. gun ban and noting that he himself, as a gun owner,  had a concealed carry permit.

“I like his honesty,” said Lothrop, as when he said health care should not be the federal government’s responsibility.

But immigration is the dominant issue for many whom come to see Tancredo.

State Rep. Andrew Renzullo, from Hudson, N.H., who attended the Tancredo campaign headquarters opening, said the American people “see what is going on at the border and they say, ‘Wait a minute, how can you be protecting this country if the border is wide open? If there’s another 9/11 and the people who did it came across the southern border, you won’t see a Republican president for 50 years.”

Do illegal immigrants want citizenship?
Ronald Oplinus, a retired electrical engineer who also showed up to see Tancredo at the campaign headquarters opening, said illegal immigrants “should not be given a path to citizenship. In reality, most illegals in this country do not want to become citizens; we know that because they’ve made no effort to assimilate or to hide.”

Oplinus said he voted for Bush in 2004 and in 2000, but now describes himself as an ex-Republican who has become an independent conservative.

Asked whether Bush and GOP leaders are misreading public opinion on immigration and if so, why, Oplinus, “I don’t think they misread public opinion; I think they’re just ignoring it… I think the president may be in the pocket of big business. I think they’re just totally ignoring us; they don’t really care what we think. They will find out the next election.”

Tancredo himself explains Bush’s insistence on legalizing illegal immigrants in terms of corporate power: “There’s an enormous amount of pressure… Enormous economic forces at play here, a lot of money involved…. High-donor contributors from big corporations that benefit from the labor they can exploit from illegal aliens in this country and from the niche markets they can create…. These things are economically driven.”

Tancredo’s manner is mild, but his analysis sounds harsh in its economic determinism, and that, too, is something you won’t hear from the other GOP presidential hopefuls.