Tancredo drops out of race for Republican nomination

Colo. congressman backs Romney for immigration stand

December 21, 2007|By Maria L. La Ganga | Maria L. La Ganga,LOS ANGELES TIMES

DES MOINES -- Tom Tancredo, the Colorado congressman best known for his bellicose views on immigration, pulled out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination yesterday and threw his support behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

He also took credit for moving what he described as the "perilous consequences of massive, uncontrolled illegal immigration" to the forefront of the presidential campaign, at what was likely the best-attended news conference of his back-of-the-pack run.

"Just this month, The Economist, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal and even The New York Times have grudgingly accredited my campaign with forcing the issue of immigration to the forefront of the national stage," he said before a thicket of television cameras and reporters in a hotel ballroom here.

Not only that, he said, but the same publications also gave him credit for "forcing nearly every Republican presidential candidate to commit themselves to an immigration plan that calls for securing our borders and enforcing our immigration laws."

Not even the Democrats, Tancredo said, were immune from his immigration onslaught. They were "tortured," he said, and lived in fear that a public misstatement on the controversial issue could cost them on the campaign trail.

"Who would have thought this would have happened six months ago, a year ago?" he asked. "It is beyond anybody's wildest expectation. ... I am indeed pleased at how this issue has ripened."

Earlier this month Mike Huckabee, one of the top GOP candidates, unveiled a detailed plan for tackling illegal immigration, including completing the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border by 2010, increasing the number of Border Patrol agents and giving all undocumented immigrants 120 days to register and leave the county.

Only two years ago, as governor of Arkansas, Huckabee supported legislation that would have offered in-state college tuition rates to certain children of illegal immigrants in his state.

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani also has stiffened his stand on the issue in recent weeks.

Huckabee's recent rise in the polls was one of the reasons Tancredo said he was getting out of the race two weeks before the Iowa caucuses -- coincidentally, on his 62nd birthday.

The last thing he wanted was for his continuing candidacy to "contribute to the nomination" of a candidate whose record on immigration was abysmal, he said, citing Huckabee and Arizona Sen. John McCain, a strong supporter of legislation that would have put some illegal immigrants already in the United States on a path to citizenship.

"Governor Romney, to his credit, ... did something I don't think is politically correct in the state of Massachusetts -- stopped giving driver's licenses and in-state tuition to illegal aliens," Tancredo said, adding that Huckabee's action in Arkansas was a "totally different kind of situation."

The Huckabee campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

In a brief written statement, Romney thanked Tancredo for his support.

Maria L. La Ganga writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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