Editor's note: On February 5, as predicted, Cory Gardner joined the vast majority of his Republican U.S. Senate colleagues (Utah's Mitt Romney was the sole exception) in voting to acquit President Donald Trump at the conclusion of his impeachment trial. Continue for our previous coverage.
Former U.S. Representative, past Colorado gubernatorial hopeful and onetime Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo has a well-deserved reputation for saying exactly what he thinks without regard to whether anyone else likes it or not.
Tancredo recently angered backers of the state GOP by endorsing Rifle restaurant owner and Second Amendment activist Lauren Boebert in her challenge from the right to incumbent 3rd District Congressman Scott Tipton. And when asked about Cory Gardner, widely viewed as one of the most vulnerable U.S. Senate Republicans in 2020, Tancredo admits that he's not certain Gardner can win under any circumstances given the blue Democratic wave that washed over Colorado in 2018. But he knows a quick way for Gardner to doom his chances once and for all — to take the advice of some national pundits and back the impeachment of President Donald Trump during a vote currently scheduled to get under way at 2 p.m. today, February 5.
"There's not a single Democrat vote that would change, and I'm sure he recognizes it," Tancredo says. "He's got to have a base upon which to build any sort of successful campaign, and his base is not a majority of Coloradans. It's maybe 40 percent right now — 42 at best. So you've got to find other votes to add to that. And if you want to erode the base down to 20 percent, go ahead and vote for impeachment."
The odds that Gardner will do so, based on his laudatory remarks about Trump after last night's State of the Union address, are roughly none and none.
As for the Boebert endorsement, Tancredo reveals that "I had a couple of very lengthy discussions with Lauren at her request, and she's an extraordinarily talented young woman. And because she's someone who's committed not just to the Second Amendment, but to all the other issues I'm involved with and believe in" — most famously, he's a hardliner when it comes to immigration — "it wasn't a hard decision for me to make after talking with her for a while."
He notes, "This may sound kind of self-aggrandizing, but some people ask me to endorse them and I have to say no for a couple of reasons. One is, there's no purpose in it: They don't have the slightest chance in a million years. But that's not the strongest argument. A stronger one is if they don't seem committed to anything."
During speeches, he goes on, "I've always told audiences that when people ask you for your vote, try your best to discern the motive, because it's been my experience that there are two motivating factors that come into play when anybody is trying to get elected. And even though they are oftentimes together in the same person, you have to figure out which one is really the most powerful reason they're running. One is that they want to be fill-in-the-blank: county commissioner, state representative, President of the United States. That's the ultimate goal. And the other reason is because they have a set of principles or an agenda that they want to put in place, and you know that's where you have to go in order to accomplish it."
For most political aspirants, "it's a combination of things. But when someone's goal is only to be the incumbent whatever-it-is, then you understand why we elect so many people who later disappoint us. They'll move on to Congress or the state legislature, and after a while, you'll find yourself saying, 'Fred or Mary said they were all about this when they were running, and now they're not. I don't understand what happened.' But what happened is that their main goal was winning the seat. They asked themselves, 'What do I need to earn that goal? Oh, I have to win over this constituency or that constituency, and it's all dependent on how my position on these issues plays out.' And that's a problem."
For voters on the left, this description would seem to fit President Trump, whom critics have accused of being a pathological narcissist beholden to nothing and no one but himself. But Tancredo rejects this analysis.
"My God, all you can do is judge someone on their actions as opposed to their words," he asserts, "and I don't know if there's ever been a president who was more consistent in terms of doing the things he promised he would do when he was campaigning; maybe Reagan. And he did it even when his positions were unpopular among the establishment. That doesn't deter him. I don't know if the principles were there or not. All I know is he's doing exactly what I had hoped he would do when he promised the things he promised. So, no, I think he's the best example of following through on what he promised that I can think of."
As for Boebert, Tancredo acknowledges, "I saw, or believe I saw, somebody who has a commitment to some ideas and principles, and that's the primary reasons she's running — and why I endorsed her."
In a recent interview with Westword, Boebert told us she decided to take on Tipton in part because he wasn't a forceful enough advocate for Trump or conservative objectives — and Tancredo echoes these observations. "I believe Scott Tipton is not a strong supporter of the president, and I feel the positions he's taken on a number of issues, including immigration, are disappointing to me, and they have been for a long time. He's a very nice fellow personally, a pleasant individual, but that's not a reason to be in Congress."
Boebert's candidacy likely means Tipton will need to expend resources to fend off a fellow Republican that he could be using against a Democrat in the general election. That's the sort of thing that political parties despise — hence the antipathy toward Tancredo's move. But in his words, "I couldn't care less what the Republican establishment thinks I should or shouldn't do. They have led us into a morass that I think we're battling to try to get out of. Besides, Donald Trump won that district, and if Lauren defeats him in the primary, she will be elected to Congress. So I don't think Republicans need to spend any money. They will, because they'll want to defend an establishment Republican. But that in itself tells you all you need to know about why I would support Lauren."
Gardner, meanwhile, should give up on trying to win over most Democrats, Tancredo advises. "Everything rests on the unaffiliateds. Our best guess right now is that they don't vote Republican, so it's going to be hard. But if I were Cory, I wouldn't spend a tenth of the money he'll be taking in — and it will be massive, of course — on television or mailing or radio. I would spend every dime I could on the ground game. That's everything. If there are people out there you can influence by actually finding out what motivates them, that's the way to reach them. So you've got to find a lot of people who are willing to change their votes, or to perhaps vote for the first time, and that's got hardly anything to do with the traditional campaign tactics of the past."
He gives Gardner a chance to pull off this trick, but not a huge one: "The numbers don't look promising, and if I were a betting person, I'd bet he would not carry the state."
Trump's odds of taking Colorado are higher, he argues. "I would put that at better than 50 percent. Look at the crowd that he drew in New Jersey" during a late January campaign rally that filled a 7,400-capacity venue and left thousands of supporters outside. "That's kind of impressive. So I think his chances are good and getting better."
Such an outcome would fly in the face of accepted wisdom, but it's happened before. On election night 2016, he remembers fondly, "I was driving down to Channel 9, where I was going to do color commentary with four other people, including Ted Trimpa, the ultimate Democrat guru, and I was thinking, 'How am I going to spin this after Hillary Clinton wins? How am I going to draw any positive conclusion out of this?' But then, about 9 o'clock, a pall descended on the studio. People were crying at their desks in that newsroom when it became clear Trump would win; I wanted to take a picture of it, but they wouldn't let me. I was thinking, 'What a night! What an amazing night!'"
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