Friday, December 21, 2007

Tom Tancredo's timing, and a note on vanity canidates

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination today, and endorsed former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) yesterday. He said it was because he was afraid his staying in the race might split the anti-immigrant vote, and that he'd rather see Romney win than McCain or Huckabee - as if his one point of support was really splitting the field.

I didn't think this was possible, but I've actually lost respect for Tancredo as a result. Does anyone else find the timing of his withdrawal suspicious? Normally vanity candidates like Tancredo never drop out. By vanity candidates, I mean House members or has-beens who never have a chance in hell of winning, but can at least shape the debate. Long shot Senators and Governors are not vanity candidates, but one-issue Congressmen like Tancredo are, as are retired has-beens like former Democratic Senator Mike Gravel, who disappeared for twenty years. Vanity candidates aren't in it to win; they're in it to push an issue or a message. This is why four years ago, Kucinich was the only losing Democratic candidate to campaign all the way to the convention.

Tancredo was, by all accounts, a vanity candidate. He never rose above one or two points in any poll, and never had a chance to win. He's a Congressman, not a Senator, and he browbeats about little more than immigration. As such, he's not the kind of guy to drop out. Until you take a look at the timing: the last Republican debate before the Iowa caucus was held December 12. Eight days later, Tancredo's out. Seems to me the guy was just in it for the national attention the debates would bring him! He stood there for seven months taking up valuable air time that could have gone to more legitimate candidates, time that could have been used to explore more issues or further develop too-short answers, and the minute those debates were done, he said, "Ok, I've had my fun, see you later, time to let the race get serious!" Like it was planned! Excuse me, Congressman? If you weren't going to have the decency to campaign the whole way, you should have allowed us at least one debate with a focus on the viable candidates! At least one!

I've never been able to stand Tancredo. He's nuts; his misleading, xenophobic television ad is proof enough of that. I thought my respect for him was already about as low as it could go. Turns out I was wrong.


A word about vanity candidates
I don't call Tancredo "nuts" just because he's a vanity candidate. Some are, some aren't. In general, I think they waste valuable newspaper space and debate time and should just go away, but every now and then one proves an exception to the rule, either for poll results or general respectability. A quick run down of the other no-chance 2008 fringe candidates:

Republican Rep. Ron Paul - Has extreme, unworkable ideas, but very articulate in one-on-one interviews, and a retired OB-GYN. Many of his supporters (though not all) are a bit loony, but Paul himself seems like a legitimate thinker who brings something to the table. He does give voice to the voiceless (unrepresented libertarians), and so has registered in NH polls and raised more money than any other Republican candidate this quarter. I can respect him.

Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter - Aimless, ideological, and one note. Opposes women in the military. Thinks giving prisoners Noodles Jefferson for dinner makes up for sticking glowsticks up their butts. Wacko. (Though to his credit, he is a war hero, and while that's no excuse for his current behavior, I would be remiss in not saying it.)

Republican Amb. Alan Keyes - Gets angry if you acknowledge the existence of any issue other than abortion. Has had three failed Senate bids and is working on his third unsuccessful run for President. Interrupted and badgered the moderator of the last debate to demand more air time, even though he received more than most of the candidates. Was arrested for trying to crash a 1996 debate. Jumped into a mosh pit during a previous campaign. Calls gays and lesbians, including Mary Cheney, "selfish hedonists." His voice sounds like Kermit the Frog on meth. Crazy? I think what's crazy is having to even ask that question, the answer is so obvious.

Democrat Dennis Kucinich - I've met him, and he's actually quite charming and sincere, with a heckuva personal history. Extreme, but actually quite reasoned and respectable when you talk to him. The real deal.

Democrat Mike Gravel - I met the man once. I call him Crazy Uncle Mike. His ideas are as unworkable as Paul's, just on the other side of the ideological spectrum. The difference between the two men is, Gravel has no understanding of what the current law actually is, and he's as senile in person as he is on stage. How did he ever get elected to the Senate in the first place? What's wrong with Alaska? Quite possibly the craziest politician of the last fifty years.

The final verdict: Good riddance to Tancredo. I wish Hunter and Keyes would join him. Cheers to NBC for kicking Gravel out of their debates. Dr. Paul, however, has earned his keep. As for Kucinich, it would be no loss if he dropped out, but there's really no way to justify kicking him out, as much as the non-vanities may want to.

(Picture credit. Wave bye bye, Tom!)

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