Tom Tancredo and the Plight of the Second Tier


Tom Tancredo has a tough sell here today. He is trying to pitch himself to a crowd that is salivating at the chance to hear McCain, Thompson, Huckabee, and Giuliani speak. In fact, in the lobby of the Hilton Washington earlier this morning, I overheard a girl in her twenties says to her friends, “I keep taking these quizzes on ‘Who is your favorite candidate?’ And it keeps coming up Tancredo. And I’m like, ‘Who are you??'”

Tancredo takes this in stride. He opens his speech with a joke about being a second-tier candidate and by telling a story that goes something like this:

“I went to speak to the NAACP in Detroit recently, and when I got into the cab at the airport, I was wearing jeans, I didn’t have an entourage, and I was still eating the sandwich I was eating on the plane. The cab driver asked me, ‘What are you doing here?’ I said, ‘I’m speaking to the NAACP.”

He said, ‘Why?’

I said, ‘Because they asked me to.’

He said, ‘Why?’

I said, ‘Because I’m running for president of the United States of America.’

And he turned back and looked at me. He paused and said, ‘Nah.'”

That joke may not translate onto a blog, but it was pretty funny at the time. Sorry.

Tancredo’s speech can be summed up by this line: “When conservatives run on principle, they win. When conservatives run away from principle, they lose.” He goes on to criticize the Republican Party for hyphenating their message (neo-conservative or compassionate-conservative, for example) and for straying from the ideals of “John Adams, Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan.”

That is to say, he doesn’t talk policy. And this get to the heart of what is happening today: the candidates are taking every chance to throw red meat to this crowd, but offer almost nothing by way of substantive and concrete ideas for America and for their presidency.

Actually, Tancredo does have one idea. Paraphrased, it’s this: “Don’t hold your nose and vote for the better of two lousy choices. Vote for someone you actually believe in. That’s me.” And that’s the message of a second-tier candidate.

Update: Sorry, didn’t mean to confuse anyone. Tancredo also discussed immigration, immigration, immigration.