Tom Tancredo on why he broke away from the Republican Party: "Something changed"

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Tom Tancredo.
This morning, we caught up with candidate for governor Tom Tancredo doing something that should prepare him for the campaign to come -- picking up trash in his backyard. There'll be more rubbish in his future, no doubt. But he takes a moment to discuss his formal entry into the race, his kinship with the American Constitution Party and his hope that his relationship with the Tea Party crowd can be repaired.

Now that the previously announced American Constitution Party gubernatorial pick, Ben Goss, has stepped aside in favor of him, Tancredo has only a few more details to tackle before his candidacy is official.

"I've got to file certain candidate papers, and they had to file certain party papers to show that they met and decided to nominate me," he says. "It's a lot of stuff at the Secretary of State's office, and I think everything is pretty much completed. So our hope -- and I underline that -- is tomorrow morning at ten o'clock to have a press conference to announce that we're on the road."

Not that this plan couldn't change in the 26 hours or so between then and now.

"If you knew what total chaos this is," he says. "Trying to find office space, get an organization in place, a bank account open, a website up, and to do it all in such short order, is quite taxing on the resources."

Of which he has few at this point. When asked if the ACP had a pool of money with which for him to get started or if he's starting from scratch, his response is unequivocal: "It's definitely scratch."

In an interview earlier this week, Doug Campbell, the immediate past chair of the ACP's Colorado branch (and a former candidate for Secretary of State and the U.S. Senate), said he felt Tancredo's views and the party's platform were in sync approximately 95 percent of the time -- and Tancredo agrees. "It's like everything else. There are nuances here and there, and people can interpret things in a variety of ways. We've had at least one meeting so far to make sure we all understood what these things meant, and there's some stuff that doesn't leave itself open to definitive analysis. But I think 95 percent is about right."

As for the remaining 5 percent, one difference involves Congressional salaries and pensions. As Colorado Republican Party boss Dick Wadhams noted before he belatedly clammed up about Tancredo, the ACP's platform calls for the elimination of such payments. And Tancredo?

"I'm for having a pension," he says with a chuckle before getting serious. "The entire framework for the Constitution Party platform is taking the country back to a better understanding of the Constitution itself and adherence to it. And what they're saying is, they'd like the states to actually be the people that pay their representatives, and I suppose pensions, too. They just don't like the idea of the federal government being the employer of a state representative. They think you lose some degree of connection to the state. But I don't really care who pays. That's their thing.

"All party platforms are pretty much wish lists. Look at how many pro-choice Republicans there are when every year, the platform has a pretty strong statement about life that doesn't leave much wiggle room. But everybody recognizes there are some things in platforms where people can disagree, and other things they can rally around."

Shortly before Tancredo's high noon ultimatum to damaged Republican guv candidates Scott McInnis and Dan Maes passed, numerous 9.12 Project and Tea Party urged Tancredo to shelve his campaign before it started. After all, he'd earlier encouraged them not to leave the Republican fold in favor of starting their own third party. Did Tancredo consider their plea before taking the plunge?

"I certainly did think about it," he says. "But here's what happened with them and with me -- and it's kind of ironic. They went from being sort of insurgents at the time, and criticizing me for saying they should stay with the party, to now them being sort of establishment types. And that happened because their guy" -- Maes -- "won the top line at the assembly.

"When I first said that, I thought we had a viable candidate" -- McInnis -- "and that if we stuck together, we could win. But one big chunk of that fell apart, and even though they think they have a viable candidate with Dan, no matter how hard I try, I just can't see it. So something changed. Circumstances changed for them, and circumstances changed for me. And for me, those circumstances were that it became apparent our party didn't have a viable candidate. They would disagree, I know. But I felt that didn't leave many more options. When all the stuff about plagiarism came out, I couldn't help trying to figure out what to do under these new circumstances. And this is what I decided."

The result is a potential rift between Tancredo and the very Liberty Movement believers who would presumably have served as his base. But he's hopeful this divide can be bridged in the future -- and he agrees with Campbell that he has a viable chance to win the election even if the Republican vote is split.

"There is a scenario where, in a three-person race, someone with as little as 35 percent could win," he says. "And you should remember, I won my first primary with just 26 percent, because there were five candidates. So that's just one of the possibilities."

In other words, don't trash his chances yet.

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