Tancredo formally announces ’08 bid

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) formally announced Monday that he is running for president and said his campaign would be focused on combating illegal immigration.

“I am running for president to give Americans a voice, to win this fight [on illegal immigration],” Tancredo said in his announcement address on an Iowa talk-radio show.

The Colorado Republican is widely known as an ardent supporter of tight border security and an opponent of amnesty or guest-worker programs that could lead to citizenship for people who came to the U.S. illegally. He is currently serving his fifth term in the House of Representatives and founded the House Immigration Reform Caucus in 1999.

Tancredo has made waves with comments suggesting that the U.S. could retaliate for future terrorist attacks by bombing Muslim holy sites and likening parts of Miami to a Third World country.

“Unlike legal immigrants, who have for more than 200 years come to be a part of our nation, illegal immigrants today come to be apart from our nation,” Tancredo said Monday. “The great tradition of American assimilation has broken down.”

Tancredo irked some Republicans when he backed Jim Gilchrist as a third-party candidate in the 2007 midterm race for California’s 48th congressional district seat. Gilchrist founded the Minuteman Project, a civilian border-monitoring group dedicated to fighting illegal immigration.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) suggested in September that Tancredo be thrown out of the party if he continued to back Gilchrist. “I would ask the state of Colorado to strip him of his party membership,” Issa said.

But Tancredo has strong support for his views among fellow border-security advocates.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) told The Hill on Monday he does not believe that Tancredo’s support for Gilchrist hurt the lawmaker’s standing in the GOP conference.

Some congressional Republicans have shown support for Tancredo already. Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.) said Monday “it would behoove all the Republican candidates to come to [Tancredo’s] view [on immigration].”

Goode noted Tancredo will face an uphill battle because of fundraising, but added that he would not count Tancredo out of the race.

But Tancredo will need to compete for the border-security vote with Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who also runs a conservative campaign for president.

In any case, King said he is optimistic that Tancredo can raise the profile of the immigration issue in the race.

“Every candidate in this race is going to have to go through the Iowa immigration gauntlet,” King said Monday. “The Iowa caucus-goers are encouraged by Tom Tancredo, and those who have a weak position on amnesty, for example, will get an earful.”

“If they’re looking for support from Iowa caucus-goers,” King said, “they’re going to have to be pro-border security, pro-rule of law.”

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) offered similar support Monday, saying that Tancredo’s “presence will have a positive impact on the [immigration] issue and force the other candidates to be honest about their positions on the illegal-immigration dilemma plaguing the country.”

A social conservative, Tancredo says he would appoint Supreme Court judges in favor of overturning “the travesty of Roe v. Wade.” Tancredo has staked out a conservative position on gay marriage as well, and has advocated economic reforms such as a flat tax.

Tancredo received some attention in February when freshman Rep. Keith Ellison’s (D-Minn.) staffers called the Capitol Police on him. Ellison’s staffers, who occupy the office next to Tancredo’s in the Longworth office building, complained of cigar smoke coming from Tancredo’s office.

A Capitol Police officer informed Ellison that smoking was allowed in private offices, and Tancredo backers sent cigars to the Colorado lawmaker in a show of support.

“Send the Cuban ones back because they’re illegal,” Tancredo told The Hill when asked with he does with the stogies. “Smoke the rest.”