Tom Tancredo, Dog the Bounty Hunter & Sheriff Joe Arpaio draw a bead on John Hickenlooper

Against all odds, Tom Tancredo seems to be gaining momentum in his third-party gubernatorial run. With pundits essentially writing off Republican nominee Dan Maes, whose recent attempt to raise $500,000 in a day fell over $400,000 short, Tancredo operations manager Cliff Dodge is buoyed by new poll numbers and confident that a fundraiser Sunday featuring controversial Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio and local hero Dog the Bounty Hunter will lead directly to Tancredo TV ad buys.

The aforementioned poll, conducted by CNN and Time, shows Tancredo with 29 percent support among likely voters, compared to 21 percent for Maes. Of course, Democrat John Hickenlooper continues to maintain a commanding lead overall, with 47 percent. But Dodge is particularly jazzed by stats showing Tancredo narrowly leading Hickenlooper among independent voters, 41 percent to 40 percent. Here's the graphic in question:

Of course, this one percent difference is within the margin of error and may be statistically insignificant. But Dodge sees it as pointing in the right direction.

The independents "mean everything," he says. "We have to get a huge plurality of Republicans, naturally, but we have to get over half of the independents -- and then we have to have some of the Democrats to win this race -- and we think we can do it." To him, inching ahead in independent voters is "a huge step."

Getting Republican voters to cast their ballots for Tancredo represents a different kind of challenge -- convincing people accustomed to supporting the GOP to make the leap. In this respect, he thinks a new batch of radio spots featuring former Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez will have an impact.

"He's the consummate Republican," Dodge says of Beauprez. "He was chairman of the party, a congressman, and he has seen the light. He's willing to lend his name and his voice. That ad wasn't scripted. It was off the top of his head. And we think [former Republican Senate candidate] Bob Schaffer is going to do one of these non-scripted things, too.

"The message has got to be that it's okay for Republicans to vote for Tom Tancredo, because principles matter," he continues. "That's what people can and will take out of these ads, and I do think that it's gaining traction and momentum. However, the stereotype is extremely strong. People for forty years have walked into that booth and sought out the 'R' and made the check-mark, and that's going to be very difficult to overcome just because of habit and tradition. But Tom is doing everything he can to change the face of that equation and let people know that he's been a Republican all his life. The fact that he's running on the Constitution Party ticket was the only way available for him to get into the race -- so it's okay for Republicans to vote for Tom Tancredo, because of the principles he holds."

Radio alone can't spread this gospel to enough voters. Hence, Tancredo has posted a slew of campaign videos on YouTube -- see many of them below. But he also needs to get onto broadcast TV, and Dodge thinks he'll be able to do so with a little help from a fundraiser at 1 p.m. on Sunday at the Grizzly Rose; visit Tancredo's website for more details.

Special guests at the shindig include two controversial figures: Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the ultimate get-tough lawman, who's reviled by opponents of his state's disputed immigration law, and Duane "Dog the Bounty Hunter" Chapman, a reality-TV star who critics have portrayed as a racist after a recording of a phone call in which he used racial slurs was made public in 2007. Chapman quickly apologized for the incident.

Tancredo, too, is often accused of racism, due to his immigration policies -- charges he, too, denies on a regular basis. In that sense, he's a kindred spirit of Arpaio and Chapman. The people offended by them were never going to vote for Tancredo anyhow, while others with less hardened opinions are more apt to be open-minded and intrigued by the Grizzly Rose event.

"We're expecting it to be well-populated and well-attended," Dodge says. "It's a small-dollar fundraiser; it's $35 per person and $50 for a couple, so it's for the regular folks, not one of those $500-a-plate kind of things. And we absolutely believe that it will help us start buying TV time next week. You may not see ads for a week after that, but we're going to be able to buy it."

In the meantime, Tancredo will continue to make public appearances like a recent one in Franktown. "It was just amazing," Dodge allows. "There were almost a hundred people there, and they did a straw poll at the end of it -- and only two people who were there said they weren't going to vote for Tom. So his message is resonating. People know Tom, and they know what he stands for, and they know how he'll govern -- as a conservative."

Page down to see some of Tancredo's recently posted videos, to get an idea of what some of his TV ads may look like:

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts