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Hasta La Vista

Rep. Tom Tancredo, looking back in anger.
Rep. Tom Tancredo, looking back in anger. (By M. Spencer Green -- Associated Press)

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By Dana Milbank
Friday, December 21, 2007

DES MOINES, Iowa

Tom Tancredo is an angry man.

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We know this because he has proposed dropping bombs on Mecca. We know this because he sang "Dixie" at a South Carolina gathering full of Confederate flags and white supremacists. And we know this because he wants to expel 12 million people now living in the United States.

Now, the Republican congressman from Colorado has a new reason to be angry: The voters of Iowa, inexplicably, do not want him to be their president.

"I know I cannot win," he confessed at a lightly attended news conference in the Marriott hotel here, where a balky sound system -- made in China! -- marred the announcement that he was quitting the presidential race. Thus, just two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Tancredo determined that "it was best for the cause that I step down."

A grand total of 18 staff members and supporters -- some wearing pins proclaiming "Proud member of Tom's Army Against Amnesty" -- stood to the side and fought back tears. Adding to the pain, the Marriott restaurant, just steps from the meeting room where Tancredo quit the race, was serving a "South of the Border Thursday" lunch buffet.

The supporters passed by the restaurant and went upstairs to a hotel room to mourn their candidate's departure from the race. Conveniently, all the Tancredo supporters were able to fit in one elevator.

This week's Washington Post-ABC News poll put Tancredo's support at 2 percent in Iowa, down from 5 percent in the summer. While that's still double Rep. Duncan Hunter's haul, Tancredo could accurately conclude from that poll that 98 percent of Iowa Republicans are against him.

And while some say his deport-'em-all illegal immigration proposal is irrational, there was no disputing Tancredo's analysis of the race Thursday: "Somebody's going to be the president of the United States. It's not going to be me."

But that's when Tancredo's logic broke down and his anger crept in. In response to questions, he admitted he was pulling out to help defeat somebody he dislikes more than an undocumented Mexican in the desert: former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, the new Republican front-runner here with what Tancredo called an "abysmal" record of "inviting" illegal immigrants. "It was important in making this decision -- you bet your life it was," Tancredo said.

Never mind that Huckabee was tough enough on immigration to win the support of the border-vigilante Minuteman Project. Tancredo said he is throwing his support behind former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, a man who has twice entrusted his landscaping to illegal immigrants and who only two years ago described as "reasonable" efforts by Sen. John McCain to let illegal immigrants become legal. Back then, Romney disputed Tancredo's characterization of the McCain plan as the dreaded "amnesty."

Tancredo's blind rage against Huckabee seemed to have gotten the better of his judgment, for he embraced Romney as a true believer in the immigrant crackdown. "This morning, I met with Governor Mitt Romney," Tancredo said, and "I am convinced he is committed to the principles I've outlined." Specifically, Romney "will require those who are presently here illegally to return home."


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