The Denver mayor’s tour kicked off in the wake of controversy: A 2009 video surfaced showing him calling rural areas in the interior West “backwards thinking.” The comment was part of an answer he gave regarding why the Matthew Shepard Foundation would establish its headquarters in Denver.
But the issue didn’t come up in the rural areas he visited. The crowds supported his candidacy, and he didn’t take questions.
In stump speeches being delivered in outlying parts of the state, gubernatorial hopeful Tom Tancredo inserted a racial component into a statement made by Barack Obama in 2008 and called the president a bigger threat to the United States than al-Qaeda.
Tancredo was cheered at stops on the Western Slope on Wednesday when he blasted Obama — and by extension Tancredo’s Democratic opponent — for his comment about people clinging to “guns or religion.”
“(Democrat John Hickenlooper’s) mentor, the guy who talked him into running, a guy by the name of Barack Obama, remember what he said about those folks. ‘When the going gets tough, when economic times get tough, these bitter white people cling to their guns and Bibles,’ ” Tancredo said in Montrose. “If you’re going to cling to something, those are damn good things to cling to.”
Tancredo has tried to link Obama to Hickenlooper since the Denver mayor’s comments about “backwards thinking” in rural areas came to light last week.
Mr. Hickenlooper, the mayor of Denver, Colorado’s largest city, promised in getting into the race that he would run a purely positive campaign (one of his first television advertisements showed him in the shower, talking about how the politics of attack made him feel dirty). And then, through a fluke of fortune, he ended up facing a deeply divided field, with two conservatives battling it out to split the vote.
The result is a kind of political meditation on the chicken and the egg: many voters, in interviews across Colorado in recent days, said they liked him because he did not go negative. But that very popularity — and the fact that his two main rivals have been noisily attacking each other — also insulated him from the need to make his opponents bleed.
“I do believe that Tom Tancredo is going to win,” Flaherty declared. In recent polls, Tancredo has about 73% of Republican voters. Flaherty thinks Tancredo will wind up with over 80% of Republicans. It will be in the low 80s, he said.
Tancredo is benefiting from Dan Maes’ decision to stay in the race, Flaherty said. Because Maes stayed in the race, Hickenlooper and the Democrats figured that Tancredo and Maes would split the conservatives’ and unaffiliated voters’ and that they didn’t have anything to worry about. If Maes had dropped out, as Tancredo and Republican leaders asked him to, the Democrats would have attacked Tancredo, he said.
Now that Tancredo is poised to win, Flaherty said, it’s too late for the Democrats to attack Tancredo.