Tom Tancredo on Dan Maes meeting and dodging attacks as a "racist, Nazi bastard"

Whether you love Tom Tancredo or loathe him, there's no denying that he's a highly unusual politician. Whereas many of his peers always seem to be speaking from a heavily lawyered script, he talks off the cuff with a lack of self-consciousness that's startling and refreshing. He exhibited that quality this morning when discussing his recent meeting with embattled Republican rival Dan Maes and Democratic attack ads he's thus far avoided, but which he expects would attempt to brand him a "racist, Nazi bastard."

Tancredo was cheerful and upbeat moments before speaking to a technology group at a Denver hotel. "Remember that old saying -- 'every day, in every way, I'm getting better'?" he asks with a chuckle.

Then he takes on the subject of his latest sit-down with Maes. When the Colorado Springs Gazette reported about the Tuesday meeting, the paper said the chat took place at an "undisclosed location in Morrison" -- but it isn't undisclosed anymore.

"It's called Lair O' the Bear Park outside of Idledale," says Tancredo. "I didn't even know it existed."

He suggested the conversation "for the obvious reason," he goes on. "I was hoping he would consider dropping out, now that he's at 15 percent in the polls. I couldn't figure out what he would want to be doing. We were at a debate two or three nights ago, and I said, 'Dan, do you think it would be a productive use of our time to get together, just the two of us, and talk things out?' And he said, 'Yes, I do.' And I thought, 'Hey, that's good' -- because I assumed by saying a 'productive use of our time,' something could be gained by this discussion. And he called back next morning and suggested this location, which was a little odd. But it's a nice little park."

At Lair O' the Bear, Tancredo and Maes sat down together at a picnic table, "and I said, 'Dan, what is it you're trying to accomplish? What's your goal here?' He said, 'Its the same as when I started: to be governor.' And I said, 'Well, that doesn't seem to truly be a feasible, rational goal. So what else is there? Is this a personal thing?'

"This lasted for some time, and then we got into a discussion about some of his concerns -- about the ads and that sort of thing," he notes, referencing the negative spots from the Tancredo campaign that Maes communication director Nate Strauch dismissed in the Tuesday item "Dan Maes Spokesman Not Worried About Falling Below 10% Support, Thinks TV Ad May Turn Tide."

To that, Tancredo says, "I tried to explain that whether I was in the race or not, he would be in the situation he's in, so it's irrelevant. The question is, what are we going to do now? What are we going to do for this state? And we reached no agreement on that.

"The only thing that gave me hope was, toward the end of it, we were talking about whether or not the Republicans would put somebody else in. He said, 'If I dropped out, Republicans would put somebody else in and it would still siphon off votes.' And I said, 'I don't think so. First of all, nobody in their right mind would go in. And second, they know I would govern as a Republican.' And he said, 'I'll call Dick about that'" -- a reference to Dick Wadhams, head of the Colorado GOP.

The Denver Post's original article about the meeting, published this morning under the bylines of Karen Crummy and Jessica Fender, contained some dispute about this matter. Here's the passage from the physical version of the printed piece:

"'He said he would call (GOP chairman) Dick Wadhams and ask if it was possible for the next legislature to change the law" that would render Republicans a minor party if Maes doesn't garner 10 percent of the vote, Tancredo said.

Maes, however, denied ever making that statement.

To that, Tancredo says, "He's right. I never asked him about the 10 percent thing, and that wasn't the reason he was going to call Dick -- to talk about the 10 percent, minor party thing. So after I saw that in the paper, I called Karen and said, 'It pains me to say it, but he's right. That wasn't my question to him.' I think she just got confused about the discussion."

This section of the online version of the Post article has been changed from the printed version in respect to the passage above. At this writing, there's no reference to a correction having been made.

As for the 10 percent/minor party issue, which Wadhams dismissed in the September 29 post "Dan Maes's Troubles Not Hurting Other GOP Candidates, says Republican Boss Dick Wadhams," Tancredo says, "Have you seen the e-mail he sent out saying, 'This is all bullshit. It's no big deal'? I happen to agree with him. It is no big deal."

Whatever the case, Maes once again told the Post he's in the race to the finish. But does Tancredo have any doubt that he'd be leading Democratic nominee John Hickenlooper by a substantial margin if Maes was out of the picture?

"If I had gotten in a long time ago, we'd be in a dead heat, because they'd have spent the past three months kicking the living crap out of me," Tancredo maintains. "I'd like to say it would be going along swimmingly, but because I'd be much more of a threat than Dan Maes, I'd take a wild-assed guess that somebody would be running ads saying, 'That racist, Nazi bastard!'"

After a burst of laughter, he says, "I remember my very first entry into this whole arena" of politics. "I was watching TV and this commercial comes on. It starts out as a black forest, and then there was this really spooky voice saying, 'He spoke to this crowd, and he said these things.' And I didn't know who it was. I thought, 'This is really ugly. I wonder who this is about.' And then my picture shows up amid this parade in Littleton, and I'm waving to the crowd and they made it look like a Nazi salute!"

Again, he erupts in guffaws.

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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