Tom Tancredo just finished speaking to the Value Voters Summit. I must say, his performance on the stump has gotten better each time I’ve seen him. If he stopped three-quarters of the way through his speech, he might be a major contender.
Unlike John McCain, who seemed a bit stiff and read straight from his text – I thought it was a performance similar to the one he gave at Liberty University in May 2006 – Tancredo was loose and funny. He made a few self-deprecating jokes about his second-tier status and then took jabs at unnamed, but better-funded, opponents who don’t have his conservative record. “I have a constituency in every state of the nation, and I didn’t have to buy them,” Tancredo said. “I don’t have to spend millions of dollars to create the image of a conservative.” He pushed the johnny-come-lately-conservatives theme again when he said, “Conversions are supposed to be made on the road to Damascus, not on the road to Des Moines.”
He got a huge ovation from the pro-life, religious crowd when he said the Republican Party “needs a leader who is opposed to abortion not because Iowa caucus-goers are opposed to abortion but because the Lord said, ‘I knew you before you were in the womb.’” As the audience rose in cheers, Tancredo pointed to various individuals, saying, “I knew you!” and “I knew you!” and “I knew you!”
Ironically, his message began to go downhill was when he got to his trademark issue, illegal immigration. He got a good reaction when he said, as he always does, that “the first part of illegal immigration is illegal.” He got more good reaction when he advocated criminal charges for mayors – are you listening, Rudy? — who declare their cities sanctuaries for illegal immigrants. And to show you how deeply the crowd is into the immigration issue, he got a big ovation when he called for pardons in the Ramos and Compean case.
But the audience’s enthusiasm seemed to slip slightly when Tancredo got to the climax of his speech. He discussed the threat from jihadism abroad and multi-culturalism at home as being equal and invited the audience to join him in a battle for Western civilization. “Charge into the breach with me!” he yelled. “This is our culture! Fight for it! This is our flag! Pick it up!” When he gets to that point – I’ve seen him do this before — he sends out a vibe that some people in the audience appear to be uncomfortable with. Despite their basic agreement with him, Tancredo just seems to be a little too hot and puts people outside their comfort zone. And that’s why he can continue to make jokes about being in the second tier.