Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tancredo drops out, endorses Romney


Tom Tancredo dropped out of the Republican field for president today and backed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“At this point in time, (Romney) is the best hope for our cause,” Tancredo said during a news conference in downtown Des Moines.

The cause that vaulted the Colorado congressman into the race –– illegal immigration –– also motivated him to abandon his pursuit of the nomination, Tancredo said.

His continued presence in an election he could not win, he said, may have helped the campaigns of Gov. Mike Huckabee and Sen. John McCain –– candidates Tancredo says are soft on immigration.

Dianne Bystrom, an Iowa State University political science professor, said Tancredo’s exit and endorsement of Romney could shake up the volatile Republican field.

“Tancredo throwing his support behind Romney comes at a key time when Romney is trying to fight off the surge of Mike Huckabee,” she said. “For Romney, it probably couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Several polls show Romney and Huckabee in a tight race for frontrunner status in Iowa leading up to the Jan. 3 caucuses.

Tancredo claimed victory on the immigration issue, arguing that his stance in favor of strict enforcement forced the entire Republican field to move toward his position.

“Even the Democrats are tortured by the fact that a misstatement on the issue, like for instance suggesting support for (New York) Gov. (Eliot) Spitzer’s plan to give driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, will cost them dearly at the polls,” he said. “Who would’ve thought this could have happened six months ago?”

Tancredo and Romney met for about an hour today prior to the announcements, Tancredo said. He opted to support Romney after he was reassured that he had clarified his position on immigration.

Tancredo has questioned Romney’s sincerity on the issue in the past, but said Thursday he’s convinced Romney would secure the border, prosecute employers of illegal immigrants, and make those who are here illegally return to their native countries.

Tancredo said he is not certain what role he will play in Romney’s campaign. He said the financial fitness of his own bid did not weigh on his decision to leave the race, which came on his 62nd birthday.

Bowing out was the only way to ensure the momentum behind the anti-illegal immigration movement wouldn’t flame out, he said.

“I believe with all of my heart that we have made a difference in America,” he said.

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