Tancredo, Buck, and Norton
Last Thursday, at a fund-raising picnic for Ken Buck, former Congressman Tom Tancredo remarked to the crowd that Barack Obama and his administration represent the biggest threat to America, our constitution, and our liberty today.
As both local and national media have noticed, Ken Buck backed away from Tancredo’s statement, saying that “ there are a lot of threats to this country, and I don’t think the man in the White House is the greatest threat to this country at all.”
The politics of the flare-up – one which Ken Buck should have half-expected from the fiery and not particularly self-censoring Tancredo (whom I consider a friend) – got more interesting when Buck’s opponent for the GOP Senate nomination, Jane Norton, jumped into the fray with comments on her Facebook page:
“There was a real measure of truth in what Tancredo said. Obama is spending this country into bankruptcy. Admiral Mullen said our debt is a greater threat than terrorism. It’s time to end the culture of political correctness. Obama’s brand of big government is a threat to America.”
I understand the reaction of both candidates.
Ken Buck feels like he’s in the lead and doesn’t want “moderate” voters to tie him, in their minds, to the controversial Tancredo, who inspires tremendous loyalty and loathing among the range of Colorado voters. He’s already playing to the middle, thinking about the general election.
Jane Norton, who probably feels like she’s lost a once-large lead for the nomination, is playing to the conservative GOP base, trying to find a way to win the primary, and worrying later about whether being tied to Tancredo is toxic.
In the general election, I think – to the extent that someone worries about being perceived as “Tom Tancredo lite” – this would be a bigger problem for Ken Buck than for Jane Norton. People already see him as just that, and he knows it; we talked about it in my one-on-one interview with him early in his campaign. That said, people are extremely angry about illegal immigration and crime caused by illegal immigration so I really don’t see being perceived as an immigration hawk – even more than Buck really is – as being particularly damaging to Buck.
After all, what’s Bennet or Romanoff going to do if Buck is the nominee? Come out yelling “Don’t vote for Ken because he fights against illegal alien criminals!"???
[For the record, I understood Ken Buck’s immigration positions to be solidly conservative but much less interested in simply closing the borders to most or all immigration than Tom Tancredo is. Indeed, I found Buck and Norton’s immigration stances to be quite similar, wanting to enforce our borders but having interest in market-based solutions to both true immigration as well as temporary/migrant worker issues.]
Democrat Andrew Romanoff, trying to wrest the Dem nomination away from Senator Michael “Who?” Bennet pounced on Tancredo’s slam of Barack Obama, tying them to other conservatives and saying that such words are “beyond dissent” and “reprehensible.”
The question becomes whether Ken Buck’s reaction to Tancredo makes him look a little like Andrew Romanoff or, perhaps less of an exaggeration, makes him look a little too interested in playing nice and getting along, in strong contrast to the aggressive anti-Obama-agenda image he’s consistently portrayed.
The question for Jane Norton is whether she can recapture some momentum among conservatives by attaching herself to Tom Tancredo’s aggressively anti-Obama rhetoric. At this point, she probably has to try. Ken Buck has done well presenting himself as a hard-nosed conservative. As he backs away from Tancredo and weakens his rhetoric about Social Security (again, something I understand his reasons for), he opens the door just a little bit for the Norton campaign to wonder aloud who will get Potomac Fever if elected to the US Senate, to ask “doesn’t this already sound too much like a career politician rather than someone who will fight against what most Colorado Republicans in fact recognize as a tremendous threat to our economy, our freedom, and our nation’s Founding Principles?" At least, that’s what I would do if I were Jane Norton…
For the record, and not because I endorsed Jane, I was quite disappointed with Ken Buck’s reaction. Sure, Tom was a little over the top. He often is. If you don’t want over-the-top, don’t invite Tom. But Buck’s reaction was too cautious, too political, too “conservative” – in one sense of that word. It seems to me a lot easier to argue that the Obama administration is the biggest threat facing our nation than to argue that there are many, or even several, equally dangerous threats. It’s a lot easier, at this time in our history, to make Tancredo’s case than Buck’s.
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